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Game-Changing $1,000 Monthly Cash Assistance Program in Oregon to Solve Homelessness for Youth

In an innovative effort to combat its severe homelessness crisis, particularly among youth without families, Oregon has implemented an unconventional approach – providing some unaccompanied homeless individuals aged 18 to 24 with direct monthly cash payments of $1,000.

Program Details

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The Oregon Department of Human Services launched the Direct Cash Transfer Plus Pilot in February 2022.

As outlined in a state report on youth homelessness, the program specifically targets those aged 18 to 24 who are experiencing homelessness but have a stated “intention to become housed.”

Participant Numbers

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Thus far, the pioneering initiative has enrolled 120 young people from across the state to receive unrestricted cash transfers.

Approximately 75 of these participants reside in Multnomah County, which encompasses the city of Portland.

Payment Timeline

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The program commenced issuing initial cash payments to participants in February 2023, with the current plan to continue disbursements through January 2025.

Monthly Stipend and One-Time Grant

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Each month, participants receive a payment of $1,000.

Additionally, the program introduced a one-time “enrichment fund” payment of $3,000 after discussions with enrollees who indicated they still faced “significant financial obstacles” despite the initial monthly stipends.

Eligibility and Freedom of Choice

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The sole requirement to qualify is being an unhoused young person, although certain factors like LGBTQ+ status can give applicants priority consideration.

Notably, there are no restrictions whatsoever on how recipients can utilize the funds.

Spending Patterns Reported

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According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, recipients have stated they have primarily spent the money on housing, vehicle repairs, furniture, and moving expenses.

Housing Outcomes

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While over 65% of participants were homeless when first receiving the payments, approximately 63% reported having secured housing within six months of joining the program.

However, around 85% still required “at least occasional assistance” with accessing food.

Nonprofit Partnership

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Point Source Youth, a national nonprofit dedicated to addressing youth homelessness, collaborated with the state to help design, plan, and structure the innovative pilot program.

The organization has lent its expertise to similar initiatives across the country.

Participant Progress

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Anjala Huff, a senior director at Point Source Youth, informed Business Insider that since obtaining the payments, enrollees “have been able to obtain housing, enroll in school, and purchase cars.”

Housing Focus

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Approximately two-thirds of participants have received assistance from the program’s team in finding housing.

As Huff explained, the goal is for the pilot to serve as a “housing intervention” model that could potentially be funded through public money going forward.

Post-Housing Support

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Huff elaborated, “It’s not just about obtaining housing. We are helping to navigate creative housing conversations on how to maintain housing beyond enrollment in the program.

After receiving the cash for one year, we are seeing youth who are interested in furthering their education to jump-start their careers.”

Comprehensive Approach

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The program also guides young participants on complementary strategies to promote long-term housing stability, such as debt reduction, shared housing arrangements, securing higher-paying employment, and connecting them with community resources.

Potential Statewide Expansion

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Meanwhile, Oregon lawmakers are considering legislation that would provide homeless individuals, those at risk of homelessness, severely rent-burdened residents, or that earning at or below 60% of the area’s median income with 12 monthly payments of $1,000.

National Landscape

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Several other states and municipalities nationwide are experimenting with guaranteed basic income programs.

While distinct from universal basic income in targeting specific populations, these initiatives similarly provide direct cash transfers without restrictions on how the money is spent.

Examples from Other Local

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In Baltimore, the Baltimore Young Families Success Fund grants $1,000 monthly payments to young parents.

Denver recently extended a basic income pilot, offering some residents up to $1,000 per month after participants reported improved housing security.

Research in Austin revealed most participants there allocated the funds primarily towards food and housing costs.

Opposition and Legal Hurdles

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Despite the apparent early success of these localized trials, such programs face opposition in some quarters.

Lawmakers in Iowa, South Dakota, Arizona, and other states have proposed legislation to prohibit guaranteed income initiatives.

In January, Texas State Senator Paul Bettencourt penned a letter to the state’s attorney general, urging him to deem a $500 monthly payment program for low-income residents in Harris County (which includes Houston) unconstitutional.

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