Homeless people in Denver were paid $1000 a month for a year: what came of it - ForumDaily
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Homeless people in Denver were paid $1000 a month for a year: what came of it

Jarun Laws lived in his car in the parking lot of a restaurant in downtown Denver. He worked in this establishment as a cook until 2020, earning about $400 a month. This was barely enough to cover car payments and child support. There was no money left for rent. The 51-year-old would sometimes use part of his salary to spend weekends at a cheap hotel where he could meet his children. Jarun Laws barely had enough money for food, clothing and medicine. He had been homeless for almost 10 years. That all changed when Lowes signed up for the Denver Minimum Income Project. This pilot project allowed Lowes to rent a furnished apartment, spend more time with his children and find a job with better pay. “When they took me on the project, it changed my life,” Lowes admitted to the publication. Business Insider.

Photo: IStock

Denver's Minimum Income Support pilot, which began payments in fall 2022, targeted more than 800 homeless Colorado residents, including people living in cars, emergency shelters, and on the streets. Participants like Laws received direct cash payments with no strings attached and were free to spend the money as they chose. This distinguishes the Denver project from traditional social programs such as SNAP or Medicaid.

“Our fundamental difference is that we start with trust,” said Mark Donovan, the project’s founder and executive director.

On June 18, a report on the results of the first year of the project was presented in Denver. 45% of participants found housing after 10 months of receiving payments. They ended up in emergency departments less often and spent fewer nights in hospitals or emergency shelters. Project participants rarely went to jail, and it saved the city $589.

The year-long program was extended in January 2014 for an additional six months.

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A report from the Denver Minimum Income Support Project found that the money helped participants pay for immediate expenses such as transportation, hygiene, clothing and groceries. Paying regular rent bills, medical bills, and loan repayments were also priorities for most families. Participants in all groups noted increased financial stability and decreased dependence on emergency financial assistance programs.

The income floor puts low-income families "on a level playing field" with others, said member engagement coordinator Nick Pacheco. He noted that cash payments help participants obtain an education and find resources needed to build a career.

Project participants were divided by lot into three groups: one of them received $1000 a month for a year; another - $6500 one time, and then $500 per month; third - $50 per month as a control group.

Individuals receiving lump sum payments or $1000 per month were more likely to find stable, full-time work. They were better able to accumulate savings and make significant life changes, such as signing a lease or buying a car.

“This is freedom,” Pacheco emphasized. “Freedom from poverty and failure to achieve your goals.”

Families of participants reported improved mental health and the ability to spend more time with family and friends. Parents were able to pay more attention to their children and grandchildren.

Many families reported that they were worried about how they would pay bills once the “minimum income” payments ended. Some fear they may find themselves homeless again. For example, Laws had to go back to living in his car after the payments stopped.

Denver participants said a minimum income was the financial safety net they needed. Moriah Rodriguez, 38, was working as a kindergarten teacher for Denver Public Schools when she was hit by a car, leaving her with a head injury. The woman lived in a state apartment with her children, and soon the family had to move out.

Rodriguez received monthly Social Security payments that were barely enough to support her children. While staying with a friend, she learned about the pilot program. Moriah used the payments to repair her truck, buy new clothes and obtain a permanent voucher for public housing. She spent some of the money on bills: $400 for rent, $500 for gas, $100 for hygiene and $100 for credit card payments.

Moriah raised her credit score to 700 points.

“The program gave me more time to focus on children's education and mental health,” Rodriguez noted.

Dia Broncutia, 53, and Justin Searles, 45, lived in a temporary shelter, but thanks to the program they were able to rent a studio for $1300 a month, as well as buy clothes, hygiene products and furniture. The couple admitted last October that, despite some uncertainty about the future, they feel much more confident.

“By starting from scratch and getting a lump sum of money and then monthly payments, we were able to get back on our feet,” Broncutia explained.

A project to maintain a minimum income could become a national strategy to combat poverty. States such as California and New Mexico are already proposing state-level minimum income programs.

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Denver hopes to extend its minimum income support project for a third year. Mark Donovan said he is closely monitoring the results of similar programs across the country:

“If we can move people into decent housing at a lower cost and get good long-term results, then why not build on that endeavor?”

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