The nonprofit organization Miracle Messages launched a direct cash transfer program for those experiencing homelessness. It has been wildly successful.
Homelessness in the United States is a severe issue. Despite an extended moratorium period on rental evictions, the pandemic has only worsened the situation. Now, a study conducted by the non-profit organization Miracle Messages has found that a universal basic income could help those struggling with housing security. The nonprofit distributed $500 per month for six months to 15 unhoused individuals. They discovered that 35 percent of all those who participated were able to secure safe housing within half a year. The project, called Miracle Money, also poses other benefits, including supporting the recipients' overall healing and growth as individuals.
Recipients of the direct cash transfers were members of the Miracle Friends community. The nonprofit has come to know them over a period of several months, deeply understanding their needs and lived experiences. The members were included in the program after careful consideration, as the funds were predicted to make a meaningful difference in their lives and circumstances. Some of the criterion for selecting recipients included diversity (age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability); housing status (length of time homeless, housing options); and impact of stipend (plan for how to use funds, goals are clear).
For Miracle Messages, it was important that the recipients enjoyed a sense of autonomy with the funds they were given. They reaffirmed, "We truly believe in the agency of individuals, and that, when presented with the opportunity, people will choose to spend money on the things that will move them forward." Nonetheless, there were some restrictions on how the funds could be utilized: they could not be spent on drugs, alcohol, firearms, or other illicit substances. This is because the nonprofit did not want to provide funds that would drive people deeper into addiction. "Our core reunion services are predicated on this—we give people the opportunity to tell us what they need, and we then try to meet that need," they stated. "That being said, not all reunions are equal, and not all reunions are appropriate. The same applies for Miracle Money—we do not want to provide funds that will be used in ways that will ultimately hurt them." The program also partnered beneficiaries with volunteers who would check in on their journeys.
Elizabeth Softky is one of the 15 individuals who received the universal basic income. A journalist, teacher, and the founder of an educational nonprofit organization, she has been unfortunately experiencing homelessness since the year 2019 due to a cancer diagnosis. She began participating in the program in February this year. Her goals included making ends meet, paying down debt, building credit and improving her credit score, and buying a bicycle to get healthy and increase her transportation options. Since she first began her journey with Miracle Money, she has moved into temporary housing. She noted that as a Black woman and a cancer patient, it would be "darn near impossible" to own her own house without a shift in regulations).
Nonetheless, things are already looking up for her. She shared just two months after participating in the program, "I’m very busy this month. I got some doctor’s appointments that will take up some time, but I’m also getting involved in my projects and plans with Miracle Messages, which is exciting! I’ll even be participating in a TED Talk this month." Softky is only one of over a dozen individuals who have been positively impacted by Miracle Money. The nonprofit has, without a doubt, built a robust case for a universal basic income. Across the world, direct cash transfers have acted as successful tools to ensure economic recovery during the COVID pandemic. It is time for the United States to radically shift its public policy to include a universal basic income for all. To learn more about the work Miracle Messages does, you can visit their website here.