On Tuesday the study titled: Unconditional cash transfers reduce homelessness, was posted on The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer reviewed journal of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and an article was posted on the UBC website written by Dr. Jiaying Zhao that claims to “debunk stereotypes about homeless people’s spending habits.” But does it really?
The new study out of UBC finds if given money, homeless people without drug addictions won’t spend the money on drugs.
The purpose of the study is trying to shift the publics assumptions of the stereotypical homeless person and promote an injection of money for more supports to reduce homelessness.
The study says it is set out with the objective to “address a core cause of homelessness—lack of money—by providing a one-time unconditional cash transfer of CAD$7,500” to 50 participants in Vancouver and monitored their spending compared to another controlled group of 65 participants that didn’t receive any cash.
“Cash recipients spent 99 fewer days homeless, increased their savings, and saved society an average of $777 each by spending less time in shelters. They did not spend more money on temptation goods than the control group did.” wrote Jiaying Zhao, associate professor of psychology at UBC and principal investigator of the study.
The study ultimately found that non addicts wouldn’t spend money on addictions they don’t have.
The screening for the participants had high requirements. The study didn’t just pick any homeless individuals at random, there was a criteria individuals had to fall in to “reduce any potential risks of harm (e.g., overdose) from the cash transfer.” the study noted.
Originally 732 participants were screened and 229 were qualified to participate while in the end only 115 people participated. Participants had to be between the age of 19 to 65, homeless for less than 2 years and a vague definition of homelessness, “homelessness defined as the lack of stable housing” with no substance use, alcohol use or mental health symptoms.
How much did the study cost? It said they gave 50 participants a one time lump sum of $7,500 each which runs a total of $375,000.
While the study shows positive signs it shouldn’t be taken too seriously because of the low participation count and the type of participants only account for a small percentage of the overall homeless population.
There’s no study to show where the money would be spent if given to the majority of the overall homeless population that either suffer from drug or alcohol addiction or mental illness symptoms.
In a 2019 report by the City of Vancouver: Vancouver Homeless Count. A survey found a majority of respondents (60%) reported two or more health concerns; an increase from 54% in 2018 while 71% reported substance abuse.
In the following years BC Housing commissioned its own report on homeless numbers in the province. In the report titled: 2020/21 Report on Homeless Counts in B.C. 67% of respondents surveyed reported having addiction issues and 51% with mental health issues.
The report also identified reasons why the respondents were experiencing homelessness with 30% saying not enough income, 22% indicated substance use issues, 14% indicated a conflict with their landlord and 14% indicated a conflict with a spouse or partner.