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"Cash is freedom": Denver experiment with basic income for homeless gets City Council support

The Denver Basic Income Project gives cash payments each month to 800 individuals experiencing homelessness, no strings attached.
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Posted at 9:20 AM, Oct 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-07 11:33:08-04

DENVER — On Friday, Denver City Council voted in favor of a $4-million budget amendment to continue funding the Denver Basic Income Project, which gives cash with no strings attached to those experiencing homelessness.

This comes after the nation's largest basic income study released data at the halfway mark of its pilot program, showing encouraging results.

Although, University of Denver researchers said the findings will help establish a baseline over the next six months of individuals receiving direct cash payments, and no conclusions were drawn from the preliminary analyses, according to the report.

"In our current world and our current economy, cash is freedom," said the program manager for the Denver Basic Income Project, Gwen Battis.

The project split around 800 people experiencing homelessness into three groups and started giving them cash payments shortly after the program launched in November 2022.

Group A: People who receive $1,000 per month

Group B: People who receive $6,500 upfront and $500 per month afterward

Group C: People who receive $50/month

In partnership with researchers at the University of Denver, preliminary results were released the first week of October.

"Cash is freedom": Denver experiment with basic income for homeless gets City Council support

The study showed the rates of shelter and full-time employment increased over the past six months.

Results also showed groups slept outside less often. In Group A, unsheltered homelessness rates dropped from 6% to 0%. In Group B, the rate fell from 10% to 3%. And Group C, it dropped from 8% to 4%.

"I think when we think about tackling the issue of homelessness, you have to think of it as a multi-prong strategy and that is one strategy to get folks housed," said Denver City Councilwoman Shontel Lewis, who represents District 8.

Christopher Drury, who lives at the encampment near 50th Avenue and Dahlia Street in north Denver, said the cash program will only work for those who want a new start.

"I would try to get myself into a place where I can live, where I can eat, where I can shelter," said Drury.

Now with the city council's support, Battis said The Denver Basic Income Project hopes to continue the program into a second year.

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