Cash Assistance to Empower New York’s Homeless Youth
A new initiative aims to empower New York’s homeless young adults with monthly cash handouts to improve their access to secure housing.
The Trust Youth Initiative will be America’s first study of the benefits of direct cash assistance combined with optional support services, ultimately aiming to end youth homelessness. It seeks to build on the strong evidence base showing cash-based assistance improves outcomes for people in poverty, looking specifically its effectiveness for young people experiencing homelessness.
Contrary to common beliefs, studies have shown that cash transfers to people experiencing adversity do not result in money poorly spent, increased substance abuse, or reduced motivation to work.
Developed by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and Point Source Youth—with financial support from the NYC Mayor’s Office and charitable foundations—the project’s first phase will see up to 40 individuals aged 18–24 handed $1,250 per month for up to two years.
Chapin Hall will lead the research and evaluation, developing evidence and infrastructure for a scalable policy solution to America’s youth homelessness crisis. According to its research, conducted in 2018, one in 10 adults aged 18–25 in the U.S. had slept on the streets or in shelters, run away or been kicked out of their home, or couch surfed in the previous year.
Dr. Matthew Morton, Chapin Hall research fellow and the study’s principal investigator, explains the cash handouts will empower youth to invest in their own success. It also seeks to address racial inequalities stemming from ‘legacies of injustice’ by particularly targeting indigenous, black and Hispanic youth, and LGBTQ+ people, who are at greater risk.
Direct cash transfers are supported by a solid international evidence base, and they recognise people’s agency. It’s time to evaluate this kind of support with young people who—through no fault of their own—don’t have… access to resources for meeting basic needs.
Cash-based assistance is an increasingly popular method of supporting people in crisis worldwide. It offers a rapid way to reach those in need while also bolstering local economies, and in 2020—as countries struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic—it was more widely used than ever, with 143 programmes operating in 81 countries. In its 2020 report, the UN Refugee Agency describes cash as ‘a pathway to inclusion and protection’.