NYC funds program to give $1,250 per month to 40 homeless young people

New York City is funding a controversial pilot program that will give away monthly cash payments of $1,250 to as many as 40 homeless people between 18 and 24 for two years – with no strings attached. 

Recipients will be able to request how they want their money, such as in incremental payments or upfront as cash, and have no limits as to how they could spend it.

Championed by homeless advocacy group Point Source Youth and researchers from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, the ‘Trust Youth Initiative’ aims to determine whether giving cash to young homeless people will improve their housing outcomes and employment opportunities.

The program will also provide supportive services like financial coaching and housing navigation. 

Point Source Youth’s website calls it ‘the first study of the effectiveness of direct cash assistance to young people, 18-24, with optional supportive services to help advance the goal of ending youth homelessness.’

About 30 to 40 participants are set to be enrolled starting late this fall. Organizers have not specified how they will pick the participants or whether there are eligibility requirements.  

Point Source Youth is launching a program that will give monthly payments of $1,250 to as many as 40 homeless people, between 18 and 24, for two years. Pictured: A homeless teen panhandles on a street near Eighth Avenue in Manhattan

Point Source Youth is launching a program that will give monthly payments of $1,250 to as many as 40 homeless people, between 18 and 24, for two years. Pictured: A homeless teen panhandles on a street near Eighth Avenue in Manhattan  

Recipients will be able to request how they want their money, such as in incremental payments or upfront as cash, and have no limits as to how they could spend it

Recipients will be able to request how they want their money, such as in incremental payments or upfront as cash, and have no limits as to how they could spend it

The project will cost $2.5million, with $300,000 coming from the NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, $205,000 from the city’s privately-donated Covid fund and the rest from a network of nonprofits and organizations, according to Bloomberg.

The pilot will also involve monitoring a control group of the same size, which will receive a one-time small payment for taking a survey. 

Little specific information has been released about the research process or what factors the organizers plan to study to determine if the pilot is successful.

According to a press release from Point Source Youth: ‘A rigorous evaluation will compare the outcomes and experiences of young people in the project to young people who receive smaller stipends for completing surveys and have continued access to services traditionally available, such as shelters and existing housing programs.’

According personal banking site GOBankingRates, which analyzed take-home salaries in all 50 states, the average American takes home about $39,129 each year after taxes, which comes to $3,261 per month. For New Yorkers, the average annual income after taxes is $51,307, according to a USA Today article. Monthly, this comes out to about $4,275.

‘A solution that works to end youth homelessness provides young people experiencing homelessness, especially historically marginalized queer, trans, Black, indigenous, youth of color, directly and unconditionally, the totality of resources they need,’ said Larry Cohen, the co-founder and executive director of Point Source Youth. 

‘We must provide direct cash and youth directed support so youth can exit youth homelessness and can flourish in life.’

Matthew Morton, the study’s principal investigator from Chapin Hall, said that there’s little research on how to prevent or curb youth homelessness and what resources currently exist do not address long-term needs.

‘It’s time to evaluate this kind of support with young people who, for no fault of their own, don’t have the same access to resources for meeting basic needs that many of their peers have during transitions to adulthood,’ Morton said. 

‘Providing direct financial assistance with supports to young people has the potential to empower them to make investments in their own success while helping to counter racial inequities stemming from legacies of injustice.’

Mayor Bill de Blasio lauded the program in a statement and said that it ‘will help uplift young people and reinforce our commitment to ending youth homelessness once and for all’.

Point Source Youth announced the initiative in a Facebook post on Thursday (pictured)

 Point Source Youth announced the initiative in a Facebook post on Thursday (pictured)

According to Point Source Youth, about 4,500 young people experience homelessness in NYC on any given night

According to Point Source Youth, about 4,500 young people experience homelessness in NYC on any given night

According to Point Source Youth, about 4,500 young people experience homelessness in NYC on any given night. 

Furthermore, the number of young people living with their parents recently reached a majority for the first time since the Great Depression, at 52 percent.

‘While NYC has invested in a robust crisis response system over the last few years contributing to an increase in shelter beds and access to drop-in centers, a city-wide youth homelessness system assessment underscored that critical gaps remain,’ the nonprofit wrote in a press release introducing the program. 

‘Among those include flexible, equitable and cost-efficient interventions to help young people exit homelessness and get on a path to thriving. To this end, direct cash transfers offer a promising solution.’

Morton told Bloomberg that youth homelessness is also harder to quantify than homelessness in adults because many young people sleep on their friends’ couches or move in and out of parents’ homes, especially in the case of LGBTQ youth who are rejected by the families.

‘There’s a tremendous amount of money spent on the youth homelessness crisis,’ Cohen told Bloomberg, adding that it costs $130.63 per day for every person being housed in an NYC shelter. ‘If that money was placed in the hands of young people, we’re excited to show better outcomes.’

There are currently universal basic income program in 15 states, according to a Mashable article that lists each state’s programs. 

One such program in Denver was launched in April, called the Denver Basic Income Project, and also involves the city’s homeless population. The program cost $5.5million budget and was funded entirely through private donations.

Denver’s program will stagger varying payments throughout a year and grants $1,000 a month to 260 people, one payment of $6,500 and an additional $500 a month to 260 people and $50 to 300 people.

Another similar program just yielded some results in Stockton, California. Dubbed Stockton’s Economic Empowerment Demonstration, the program began in 2019 gave 125 of the city’s residents $500 per month for two years. 

According to CNBC, the results showed that program participants were twice as likely to find full-time work compared to those who were not involved in it. Furthermore, participants reported to see improvements in their physical and mental health as well as their ability to handle emergency expenses.

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