A universal basic income pilot program is giving homeless people $500 a month for 6 months

A universal basic income pilot program is giving homeless people $500 a month for 6 months
Activists talk about the best ways to reinforce the barricades with the material available to them near the entrance to Camp JTD in Philadelphia, PA, on September 9, 2020. Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Nonprofit Miracle Messages launched a program to test out universal basic income for homeless people.
  • So far, 14 people are participating in the program and receiving $500 per month for 6 months.
  • A program in Canada that helped homeless people find secure housing served as a model.

As a growing number of cities and states are experimenting with universal basic income, one San Francisco-based entrepreneur and sociologist founded an initiative to help people who are unhoused get guaranteed monthly payments no strings attached.

Kevin Adler's nonprofit Miracle Messages, which helps build support systems for homeless people, launched a nationwide program during the pandemic that would give $500 monthly payments to homeless people for six months. The program, known as Miracle Money, has so far selected 14 recipients to take part in the program, all nominated by program volunteers based on housing status, location, and how they plan to use the funds, among other things.

According to the website, recipients will retain a level of autonomy over how they plan to use the funds, but they cannot use them to buy drugs, alcohol, firearms, or other illicit substances.

"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," the website said.

Miracle Money is modeled after a successful universal basic income program launched in Canada: The New Leaf project. Started in 2018 by a Vancouver-based charity and the University of British Columbia, 115 homeless people received $7,500 direct payments, and after a year, researchers found the results to be "beautifully surprising."


According to the charity, days homeless dropped from 77% to 49% in the first month after receiving the payment, spending on recurring staples, like housing and food, was prioritized, food security remained steady over time, and the program saved homeless shelters about $8,100 per person.

Adler told CNBC the results of the pilot program were "astonishing," with more than 35% of its participants able to secure permanent housing.

Miracle Messages did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Insider previously reported that cities and counties, like Santa Fe and upstate New York, have been testing out guaranteed income for its residents, and California recently launched the nation's largest statewide universal basic income program prioritized for pregnant people and those aging out of the foster system.

And after the pandemic spurred Congress to approve three stimulus checks for Americans, some Democrats called to continue those checks well beyond the end of the pandemic - something tribes are doing for its members using stimulus funds.


While Miracle Money is the first program in the US giving guaranteed payments to homeless people, lawmakers are also working to address homelessness in Congress. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon recently introduced a bill to target affordable housing and end homelessness in five years.