The widely held stereotype that people experiencing homelessness would be more likely to spend extra cash on drugs, alcohol and “temptation goods” has been upended by a study that found a majority used a $7,500 payment mostly on rent, food, housing, transit and clothes.
The biases punctured by the study highlight the difficulties in developing policies to reduce homelessness, say the Canadian researchers behind it. They said the unconditional cash appeared to reduce homelessness, giving added weight to calls for a guaranteed basic income that would help adults cover essential living expenses.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia described in a report for Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences how they tracked the spending of 50 people experiencing homelessness after they were given C$7,500.
The study built on a previous US survey of 1,114 people that tracked “public mistrust” in unhoused people’s ability to manage money, where participants predicted that recipients of an unconditional $7,500 cash transfer would spend most of it on “temptation goods” such as alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
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