Developing a Direct Cash Transfer Program for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Results of a Mixed Methods, Multi-Stakeholder Design Process

New York City and jurisdictions across the country lack evidence for which interventions work best, and for whom, to devise systemic solutions for ending youth homelessness. One solution may be offering direct financial assistance (“cash transfers”) along with other supports to youth experiencing homelessness. This intervention has the potential to empower and entrust young people to invest in their own solutions for housing stability and pathways to thriving. To this end, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, in partnership with Point Source Youth, is collaborating with young people, government agencies, and private sector funders to develop and evaluate a direct cash transfer program (DCTP) for youth experiencing homelessness in NYC. As a first phase of this work, we engaged in mixed-methods formative research and multistakeholder collaboration to inform the design of a DCTP and evaluation. These activities included a rapid review of international evidence reviews (n = 46) and U.S. primary studies (n = 26) on DCTPs, focus groups with youth with lived experience of homelessness (n = 26), interviews and focus groups with a range of other stakeholders (n = 23), and a workshop with youth (n = 6) and other stakeholders (n = 12) to co-interpret the findings and help identify implications for intervention development. The findings underscore the transformative potential of a DCTP for youth experiencing homelessness. They also reveal valuable insights for informing intervention design and delivery, including the importance of adequate payment amounts informed by local housing costs; a 1- to 2-year cash transfer duration to support stabilization; versatile payout options; voluntary and high-quality supports and skill-building opportunities to complement cash transfers; taking special efforts to ensure access among particularly marginalized subpopulations of youth (e.g., immigrant, refugee, racial minority, and LGBTQ youth); and an overall empowering, flexible, simple, and user-friendly intervention design. 

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