LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A major cause of homelessness for many is the loss of income. Could a way out be providing the unhoused with monthly basic income? A USC study shows promising results.
"People that were living unsheltered in their car, they were able to spend the money on gas repairs," said Ben Henwood, a professor at USC's Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, who studies housing and homelessness and conducted the study. "Another individual who wasn't in a shelter, now he purchased a bike and does Doordash for employment. It's a lot of different ways. There's some people who had a Section 8 voucher, but they couldn't use it because they couldn't get to appointments to see apartments."
Looking at 69 of the participants in Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area who received $750 a month over six months, none of them were able to exit homelessness. But 30% started the program living on the street; after six months, that number is down to 12%
"Giving $750 dollars a month to anybody would be of great help to anybody. So, of course it's going to work with someone who is devastated by homelessness especially if they use the money properly," said the Rev. Andy Bales, president and CEO of Union Rescue Mission.
"We asked that each month they submit a budget sheet that says, tell us what you spent the money on and they describe that," said Henwood. "We have categories for all the things we talked about: Basic needs, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs -- in case they used the money on that."
The other 70% of participants started the trial living in a shelter and did not see the same kind of decline as those who were living on the street six months ago. The study shows participants spent more than one-third of the funds on food and housing.
Bales sees basic income as a valuable tool worth considering because billions is being spent on homelessness and yet the problem continues to grow.
"Let's count the costs and see if perhaps we could save money (by) not spending billions of dollars on very expensive, slow-to-develop housing, and look at this as an option if it's more affordable," said Bales.