Denver plans to dole out free phones and $12,000 apiece to 140 homeless women and transgender and “non-binary” people over the next year as part of a bigger partnership with a local nonprofit, according to a report.
The money, which totals about $1.7 million, will come out of a $2 million fund from the federal American Rescue Plan Act under a plan the city council approved, according to Axios. The money comes with no strings attached and makes Denver the latest Democratic-run city to experiment with universal basic income.
“The Denver Basic Income Project is an opportunity to explore how the philanthropic community and the private sector can augment public support for those living in poverty, particularly our unhoused neighbors, and extend that hand up to stability,’ Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement.
— Campfire Colorado (@CampfireColo) September 13, 2022
The city’s funds will be passed through the Denver Basic Income Project, a nonprofit that plans to raise some $9 million to hand out to an estimated 820 homeless women and transgender and non-binary people.
Denver Basic Income Project founder Mark Donovan told Axios most of the funding for the effort has come from charities, including the Colorado Health Foundation and the Denver Foundation. Donovan’s group will select those eligible for the stipends.
“As excited as we are about it, this isn’t something you can call in and apply for,” Angie Nelson, deputy director of the city’s Homelessness Resolution Fund, told the site.
Denver has an estimated 3,500 homeless people and just 2,000 spaces in shelters, according to DenverHomelessOutLoud.org. Many camp in tents in public spaces, which is a nuisance to businesses and residents.
Although city officials deny it, many suspect the Mile-High City’s homeless explosion is tied to its legalization of marijuana a decade ago. Tom Luehrs, executive director of Denver’s St. Francis Center, told CNN in 2018 that marijuana was drawing transients to Denver and into his homeless shelter.
“We’ve seen that over the past several years,” he said.
The group plans to give 260 people $6,500 up front, then $500 per month for the next 11 months; 260 people $1,000 per month for a year; and 300 people $50 per month as part of an experiment on the effectiveness of guaranteed basic income. All participants will get a free phone and service for a year.
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless will monitor how recipients spend the money, as well as help them find places to stay.
Nelson said the number of homeless women in Denver has tripled since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. She said transgender and non-binary homeless people often struggle to find safe and “inclusive” shelters.
Chicago and Los Angeles have similar universal basic income programs. The Windy City is spending $30 million to give 5,000 poor people $500 a month and L.A. started a program last month that will dole out $1,000 per month to 1,000 people for three years.