December 8, 2023 society

Vancouver's New Leaf Project: Providing direct cash assistance to homeless individuals

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A homless couple on the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Picture: DepositPhotos

In August this year, results of The New Leaf Project, a study conducted in 2018 in Vancouver, Canada were released by Foundations for Social Change, highlighting the need for further action on the city’s increasingly dire homelessness crisis.

The initiative aimed to increase the financial stability of those unhoused through direct cash transfers of $7,500 CAD.

According to the 2023 report conducted by the Homelessness Services Association of B.C, 4,821 individuals were identified as homeless in 2023, up 32% from 2020’s count of 3,634.

Vancouver itself, the eighth-largest city in the country, has a population of 662,248, and the wider Greater Vancouver Area is the third largest metro area in Canada, with a population of 2,642,845.

The researchers picked 115 participants who had been homeless for at least six months, aged 19 to 64, and formed two groups. A group of 50 randomly selected individuals received the money.

One participant, Ray, described that he lost his home and job within the space of a week and cited the funds from the New Leaf Project as critical in stabilizing his situation. He explained that he hoped to pursue frontline work with abuse and addiction.

Since receiving the funds, he has begun computer training. “I kind of want to give back where I’ve come from,” Ray explained, “I might one day be that important person that has a powerful voice… a seed can grow into an oak tree.”

The New Leaf Project’s objective was to ease the pressures of homelessness through increasing financial stability, however the project’s exclusion of those with addiction or mental health issues has raised questions about the ethics and moral implications of this approach.

The results of the project surpassed the expectations of CEO Claire Williams: “We saw that people increased their spending on food, on clothing, on rent, so people are using that money to help them meet their basic needs…We saw that within the first month, 60% of the cash participants were food-secure.”

Read the full report:

Unconditional cash transfers reduce homelessness

According to their findings, those who received the funds not only became more food secure but also found stable housing faster than those in the control group, taking three months as opposed to five.

Recipients spent an average of 52% of their money on food and rent, 16% on clothes and transportation, and 15% on other items. “We saw people retain over $1,000 for 12 months, which is remarkable in the Lower Mainland,” Williams said.

She remarked that people often dismiss the idea of giving money to the homeless because it will be mismanaged, but they found that this isn’t the case, since spending on alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs decreased by an average of 39%.

The New Leaf Project is currently exploring avenues to run a second iteration of the project across more Canadian and US cities with larger samples.

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Erin Walshaw

Contributor

Vancouver, Canada

Born in 2006, Erin Walshaw comes from a Canadian immigrant family originally from South Africa. She follows local and international politics on human rights, climate change, and inequalities. She plans to study within the STEM field while pursuing self-education in writing.

Erin is currently a co-president of her school’s student council and previously served as the Grade 11 Representative. She enjoys Math, Science, Humanities, and Applied Skills courses. Outside of school, she tutors other students, trains in karate, and studies French.

She is currently developing a workshop to educate young students about influential women in STEM through presentations, experiments, and interactive demonstrations.

Erin joined Harbingers’ Magazine in the autumn of 2023 after she won the 2nd prize in Reporting in The Harbinger Prize 2023.

Edited by:

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Timur Boranbayev

Economics Section Editor

London, United Kingdom

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