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What happens if you give people experiencing homelessness a basic income?

In September, DU researchers will give out cash and study the impact it has on Denver individuals for a year.

DENVER — Christopher Midbon and Donny Andrus set up a tent on Pennsylvania Street and East 17th Avenue in Denver.  

“People think that because you live in a tent, you know you are whatever, a drug addict, drunk, whatever the case may be," Andrus said. "Some of us are there because of circumstance. I lost my job so I have to live in a tent." 

To get out of their circumstance, Andrus and Midbon estimate they'd need to save $1,600 to pay first and last month's rent on an apartment.

 Andrus said he has on and off jobs that pay about $50 a day. 

“Saving $1,600 is almost impossible on the streets, so I just don’t know how we’re going to end up doing it," he said. 

That's where the Denver Basic Income Project thinks they can make a difference. It started last year when a Denver philanthropist gave $1,000 a month to 10 people. 

“I think it’s interesting for sure," Midbon said. 

He and Andrus think a guaranteed income each month could help them find steady housing and a steady job. 

But Dr. Daniel Brisson wants data to back up this theory. 

As a professor at the University of Denver (DU) and the director of the Center for Housing and Homelessness Research, he and a team of researchers will give three groups of people cash over the course of a year and study the impacts. 

One group will get $1,000 a month, another will get a lump sum of $6,500 and then $500 for the next 11 months. 

The control group gets $50 a month. These are cash payments, no strings attached. 

“And we hope the flexible money, the flexible cash can provide something," Brisson said. "Some means by which people can address some of their issues and hopefully land in housing and employed and thriving."

In a few months, researchers will recruit 260 people experiencing homelessness to receive the payments, and 300 people for the control group. 

The experiment will begin in September. Updates on signing up for the study will be at DenverBasicIncomeProject.org


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