Public-Private Partnership Launches the First Direct Cash Transfer Study for Addressing Young Adult Homelessness

New initiative aims to empower young people, increase their access to safe and stable housing, and improve evidence on what works

The Trust Youth Initiative:
Direct Cash Transfers to Address Young Adult Homelessness (young people age 18-24) involves the first study of the effectiveness of direct cash assistance with optional supportive services to help advance the goal of ending youth homelessness. The project will take place in New York City (NYC) and build actionable evidence. In the first phase, 30–40 young adults (ages 18–24) experiencing homelessness will receive $1,250 per month for up to 2 years. A large international evidence base shows that direct cash transfer programs improve outcomes for people in poverty and other marginalized situations, but they have never been specifically developed or evaluated for young people experiencing homelessness.

A collaborative team from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and Point Source Youth developed the project based on an intensive research and multistakeholder design process. Point Source Youth will oversee and support program design and implementation by local nonprofit(s), Chapin Hall will lead research and evaluation, and UpTogether will manage the cash transfers to participants through its online platform. All three organizations will work together to develop evidence and infrastructure for a scalable policy solution to our nation’s youth homelessness crisis.

“The Trust Youth Initiative represents a major opportunity to build evidence and improve systemic solutions for preventing and ending youth homelessness,” said Dr. Matthew Morton, Chapin Hall research fellow and study principal investigator. “Direct cash transfers are supported by a solid international evidence base, and they recognize people’s agency. It’s time to evaluate this kind of support with young people who—through no fault of their own—don’t have the same access to resources for meeting basic needs that many of their peers have during transitions to adulthood. Providing direct financial assistance with supports to young people has the potential to empower them to make investments in their own success while helping to counter racial inequities stemming from legacies of injustice.”

New York City youth- and young adult-serving nonprofit agencies are encouraged to consider applying to the Request for Proposals announced today for implementing the project’s supportive programming and recruitment processes.

Young adults with lived experience of homelessness codesigned the project, providing critical perspectives on how it can help end youth homelessness. Each participant can make several choices about payment frequency, payment options (for example, Venmo, PayPal, direct deposit, debit card), and decide to request a larger upfront payment to get into housing. Optional services that meet youth where they are at will accompany the financial support. These include coaching, peer support, connections to care, financial coaching, and housing navigation.

The project’s flexible approach aims to improve young people’s stable housing and well-being by providing the means to afford the types of housing they choose and the supports to make investments in their own goals, education, and career development. The collaborative project team will work with youth and NYC partners to ensure that the program’s design and delivery reflect the needs and preferences of youth with lived experience of homelessness, especially Black, Indigenous, Latinx and LGBTQ youth.

A rigorous evaluation will compare the outcomes and experiences of young people in the project to young people who receive smaller stipends for completing surveys and have continued access to services traditionally available, such as shelters and existing housing programs. Subject to funding and evaluation outcomes, after the first year of evaluation, the partners will use initial results to enhance and expand the program and evaluation to significantly more youth. The expanded evaluation will track outcomes with a larger sample for up to 3 years. In addition to better outcomes for youth, the project aims to produce cost savings through reductions in shelter use, preventing legal and health systems involvement associated with homelessness, and eventually increasing young people’s long-term earnings potential through education and career pathways.

The initiative is funded by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (for evaluation support), the Block-Leavitt Foundation, Melville Charitable Trust, Robin Hood Foundation, and the NYC Fund to End Youth & Family Homelessness, a funder collaborative that is hosted by FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds. It also involves collaboration with multiple NYC Government agencies, including the Office of the Mayor, the Center for Innovation through Data Intelligence (CIDI), the Continuum of Care (CoC) and its Youth Action Board, the Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD), and the Department of Social Services (DSS).