San Francisco has the highest rental rates in the nation. It should surprise no one, then, that the Bay Area is also plagued with widespread homelessness.
While the relationship between rental rates and living on the streets is a complex dynamic, the average $2,700 rental cost for a one-room apartment here is a big part of the problem.
Now a new pilot study is pointing toward a possible solution. The Miracle Money program launched last February is a simple idea to give $500 a month in no-strings-attached cash to unhoused people. The effort is tiny, providing funding to just 12 participants.
However, the preliminary results are being called “amazing” and “spectacular.”
That’s according to Kevin Adler. He is the CEO of a nonprofit group called Miracle Messages. It was Adler’s idea to raise enough funds to supply $500 in supplemental cash for a dozen people and to see if it was enough to make a difference. That appears to be the case.
For example, Bay Area resident Elizabeth Softky spent 11 months in a shelter after expensive medical bills forced her out of her previous apartment. The monthly $500 she now received helped her qualify to rent a place in an affordable housing complex designed for senior citizens in Redwood City. The 64-year-old is finally back in a place she can call home and has been able to retrieve her belongings from a storage facility.
The idea of providing a basic guaranteed income has been gaining traction in recent years, most notably championed by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. He also conducted small pilot studies by supplying people with $1,000 a month from funds raised in connection with his campaign. He said the results were “off the charts” in terms of the way they solved an array of social problems for people living on the edge.
In the Miracle Money program, the group selected a diverse group of people. They weeded out people with substance abuse problems and who could state goals for how they would use the money. They also agreed to supply weekly updates on how they spent the money.
The people in the pilot program were also provided help from financial coaches to help them with budgeting and handling bank accounts.
As for now, the $500 Miracle Money program will only run for six months.