As someone exits homelessness, there are many unexpected costs that make it challenging to move forward. As one RYSE youth put it: “RYSE was able to help me get an apartment of my own when I had nothing.” One way to help set youth up for success as they move into housing is through a direct cash transfer program that provides four guidelines for successful direct cash transfer programs: 1) center on youth, equity, and trust, 2) boost housing stability and empowerment, 3) adopt a flexible and simple approach, and 4) identify and manage barriers to success (Morton et al., 2020).
RYSE received support from the Stupski Foundation to pilot a direct cash transfer program which provided a one-time $1000 stipend to youth, no strings attached. Youth applied for the program through a short application which asked for some basic information as well as how $1000 would make a difference in their life. RYSE accepted 25 youth into the project. Money was given directly to the youth via check in a lump one-time sum. If youth did not have a bank account, RYSE covered the check cashing fee.
All 25 youth who participated in the program completed an exit survey when they left RYSE and 17 completed a follow-up survey after 6 months. The program distributed their first checks in Spring 2021 and followed up with youth in Fall 2021. Although this data comes from a small number of youth, it begins to tell the story of how just $1000 can help set someone up for success.
Although the sample size is small (only 25 youth in the program), it is important to look at who participated in order to think about equity-focused programming. Almost half of the youth (44%) enrolled in this program identified as Native Hawaiian, either full or in part, which is a step towards equality and ensuring Native Hawaiians have access to programs that will help them step out of homelessness. However, there is still room for improvement as this is less than the proportion of Native Hawaiians accessing RYSE overall. Additionally, Caucasians and Asians are slightly over-represented in this program, Black youth are about equally represented and Pacific Islander and Hispanic youth are slightly underrepresented. The gender breakdown is similar to the overall RYSE population and slightly more LGBT+ individuals were represented in this program.
Youth who entered RYSE had an average age of 20.4, youth who completed the exit survey (a large portion who entered into housing) had an average of 21.5 and youth in the direct cash transfer program had an average age of 22.5. This might speak to the level of readiness to move into independent housing, although the sample sizes are small- more research is needed.
“It would be really hard trying to find work knowing you don’t have money to buy house stuffs and etc…” -RYSE youth on how life would be different if they did not receive the $1000.
RYSE received $25,000 for this project and distributed $1000 to 25 youth. About three-quarters (76%) said this was enough money, while one-quarter (24%) of youth said they needed more to get stable. Of the youth who said they needed more money to get stable, answers ranged from $1500-$3000 as to how much they needed.
Youth were generally happy with receiving the money as a lump sum. Only 18% reported they would prefer to receive it month to month. A large portion of youth said they used the money for basic needs like food, clothes, or household supplies (71%) while almost half of youth said they used the money for rent or bills (47%). Three youth said they used the money towards their phone and one youth said they used it to help put a down payment on a car.
One hundred percent of youth in the direct cash transfer program exited RYSE to housing, with half (47%) going to other properties that RYSE manages, 41% obtaining a housing voucher, and 12% found housing on their own. At the time of the 6-month follow-up, 100% of youth who completed the survey were still housed and almost all (88%) had been at their location for at least four months. All youth in the direct cash transfer program remained on Oahu.
Health and Other Impacts
The same psychological scales on stress, unhealthy days and social support were assessed for the direct cash transfer participants. No statistically significant findings were found between exit and 6-month follow-up survey. This could be due to the small sample size (17 youth) who completed both the exit survey and 6-month follow-up survey.
At the time of follow-up, 13 youth (76%) were either actively working or in school. Two youth were attending community college, two youth were working on their GEDs and 11 youth were employed. Two of the youth were both employed and in school.