Researchers Lead Study by Giving the Homeless Money


Linnea Fry, Writer

While many people are weary about giving money to the homeless, fearing that it might be abused and used with bad intentions, a recent Canadian study contradicts what many people think of as facts.

In the study known as “The New Leaf Project”, canadian researchers selected 115 homeless people between the ages of 19 and 64, who had been homeless for an average of 6 months. The participants were screened for a low risk of mental health challenges, and gave 50 of them 7,500 canadian dollars (nearly $5,700). They were allowed to use the money as they pleased, and were compared to the other group of people who had not received money.

They found that those who had been given money were able to find permanent housing a lot faster in comparison to those who had not received the payment, who tended to lag 12 months behind. Not only this, but 70% of them were able to access food much faster, and the others were able to gain steadier food security for the rest of the year.

There was also a 39% decrease in goods like alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. The recipients were spending much more money on food, clothing, and housing than they were on unhealthy habits.

In a CNN interview with Claire Williams, the CEO and co-founder of Foundations for Social Change, “The homeless population continues to grow, and we keep applying the same old approaches”.

The funding for the research had come from the Canadian federal government, and donors and supporters across the country.

“One of the things that was most striking is that most people who received the cash knew immediately what they wanted to do with that money, and that just flies in the face of stereotypes,” Williams told CNN.

While many would have expected the money to be used on unnecessary things, the recipients invested in housing, or modes of transportation- such as bikes, or taking their cars to the repair shop in order to keep their jobs. Others purchased computers, and some even wanted to start their own businesses.

“People very much know what they need, but we often don’t equip them with the intervention or the services that really empowers them with choice and dignity to move forward on their own terms,” Williams said.

Most of the participants were even able to set aside 1,000 for the year, and helped their children or families.

The study even showed that it would be beneficial for the taxpayer too, researchers said that reducing the number of nights spent in shelters by the 50 study participants who received cash saved approximately 8,100 Canadian dollars per person per year, or about 405,000 Canadian dollars over one year for all 50 participants.

In the eyes of many, donating to these people might seem like an investment that will do them nothing, if not let their money go to waste. With this study, we are able to see how much of an impact a few dollars can have on not just a single person, but the community as a whole.