Homeless Population Given $750 a Month – Here’s What They Spent It On

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Jan 02, 2024

A small group of homeless people in California are participating in a study in which they will receive a universal basic income of $750 per month for one year.

Initial findings from the study have led researchers to surmise the basic-income plan has had a positive effect on the ever-increasing homeless population of the state.

California Follows Those on Homeless Income Plan

A group of homeless citizens living in California will partake in a study that aims to track how they’ll spend the $750 stipend.

Mal, who is originally from Texas and is currently homeless, pushes a cart with his belongings on a downtown street

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Approximately 100 homeless people living in and around the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County will be issued the money each month, with no strings attached.

Study Produces Interesting Findings

The study was put together to track how homeless individuals would spend the cash they received and better understand the impact a universal income could have on those struggling throughout the nation.

A group of homeless people gather in a queue underneath a concrete bridge

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After the first six months of the study, those performing it decided to release some information to the public, which produced surprising results.

Benefits of Universal Basic Income

According to the paper, it provides researchers with evidence to suggest that such a program has numerous benefits for the homeless population of California.

Woman sits on the lower bunk inside a cheap hostel after showering

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The homeless citizens who received the $750 stiped cash had a better chance of finding short-term shelter and reported having more basic necessities due to the influx of cash. This was especially true when compared against other homeless groups who did not receive the money.

Miracle Messages Conduct the Study

The tracking of how the homeless group spent their money was carried out by the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and the nonprofit group Miracle Messages.

The Zumberge Hall of Science on the USC-University of Southern California campus building.

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Joint efforts by the two organizations have shed light on how basic income may help in the fight against homelessness.

What Did They Spend Their Money On?

The groups report that those receiving the money spent around 36% of the stipend on food.

A man dressed in a blue jacket shops in a clothing store for a new winter coat

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Around 20% of their budget was spent on accommodation, nearly 13% on transportation, clothing made up 11.5% of the spending, and close to 14% on other expenses not identified in the study.


The Opposite Effect of What Was Expected

According to Ben Henwood, who oversaw the project, when the study began, expectations suggested the homeless population may have used the money for illicit purposes.

Man holds a lit cigarette in his right hand on the side of a street

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Speaking with the Times, Henwood claims that of the $750 stipend, only around 2% appears to have been spent on cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.


Empowering the Homeless Population

Henwood argues that a universal basic income for those struggling the most in society could help empower individuals to make better life choices.

Homeless man dressed in a black sweatshirt smiles for a photo

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“People have different needs, and we’re empowering them to focus on what is going to help them individually,” said Henwood.


Payment Goes Towards the Car

One particular participant of the study produced a receipt of what he used his monthly stipend on.

Mechanic uses a flashlight to check under the hood of a vehicle with a problem

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He claims to have used the extra cash to “catch up on bills” and fix a long-standing problem with their vehicle. Others reported to have spent “a lot of the money on food on the go.”


Lower Levels of Unsheltered People

According to the study, at the beginning of the tracking, around 30% reported being unsheltered in the last month. However, six months into the study, that number has dropped to 12%.

Homeless man sits on top of a worn mattress on a side street

Source: Freepik

The study will be carried out for a further six months, and researchers are hopeful that they’ll continue to see the benefits of a basic income.


Universal Programs Across the States

Universal basic income programs have been carried out in several states over the past few years, and each has reported positive results.

A young man stands on the outside of a prison fence after being released

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One project was carried out in Durham, North Carolina, which trialed a guaranteed income for convicts. According to the study, no one reoffended, and housing and employment rates steadily rose.


Stockton and Denver Report Similar Results

Similar programs took place in Stockton, California, and Denver, Colorado, each producing impressive results.

Democratic National Convention delegate Lynn Young from Colorado Springs serves food to the homeless at the Denver Rescue Mission shelter

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Reports suggest that those who receive a universal basic income stipend each month have a better chance of finding long-term housing and full-time jobs.