Tim Louis: Turning over a beautiful new leaf with homelessness

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      I read in the news recently of a very exciting study called the New Leaf Project that was done by Foundations for Social Change, a Vancouver-based charitable organization, and UBC.

      Starting in 2018, a number of homeless individuals were each given $7,500. Their spending was then tracked over a year and compared to a control group of homeless people who did not receive any money. The results are now in, and the Foundations’ CEO called them “beautifully surprising”.

      Most of the individuals who received this money were very frugal and wise in their spending. The biggest part of the money was spent on basic life necessities: food, rent, medication, paying bills, clothing and transportation.

      Spending on things like alcohol, cigarettes and drugs went down by nearly 40 percent. People got to do things they hadn’t been able to in a long time, like buy Christmas presents for their families.

      This is more proof of the validity of setting up a universal basic income for Canadians, something I’ve blogged about before.

      I've long said that we need to very significantly increase income assistance rates or, even better, bring in a UBI (or some call it guaranteed basic income). In case after case, it’s been shown that the overwhelming majority of recipients of a UBI are very responsible in their spending habits and the whole thing brings about positive change. (See Hugh Segal’s excellent book on the topic, Boot Straps Need Boots: One Tory’s Lonely Fight to End Poverty in Canada. He’s been fighting for a UBI for Canadians for four decades.)

      To start, there are many societal benefits and savings. Health-care costs are reduced as trips to emergency departments and clinics are significantly lowered as the health of recipients improves. Likewise, taxpayers save money as distress calls to police and emergency services are reduced.

      But, of course, the biggest benefit is that the individuals who otherwise would be forced to survive a dreadful life living on a sidewalk actually secure shelter—a place of their own—which is a basic human right.

      The New Leaf Project is just one more piece of hard evidence of the wisdom of putting more money into the pockets of our community’s most vulnerable and most neglected people. I hope it leads to real policy change.

      Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]

      Latest daily total (Oct. 18, 2020): 411.24 ppm

      One year ago (Oct. 18, 2019): 408.90 ppm

      Tim Louis is a Vancouver lawyer and former city councillor and park commissioner. This article first appeared on his blog, which lists the daily carbon dioxide count in parts per million in the atmosphere at the end of every post. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.