$300,000 will be distributed to youth in first cohort of pilot program
Burlington, VT, August 9, 2023 — Ten youth facing homelessness or at immediate risk of homelessness have been selected to participate in Spectrum Youth and Family Services’ Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) pilot program. Each youth will receive a total of $30,000 over the course of the 18-month intervention to support progress toward securing housing and independence.
Spectrum’s Direct Cash Transfer program is designed to empower youth by providing them with a stable cash flow to help them pursue housing, jobs, education – whatever they need. The youth will receive $1500 per month, distributed biweekly over 18 months. Youth also have access to a one-time payment of $3000 that they can request at any time during the program to support larger expenses such as move-in costs or reliable transportation.
“Merrill Lynch put out a report in 2020, sharing that 79% of American parents help their children financially between the ages of 18-34,” says Spectrum Executive Director, Mark Redmond. “Most Spectrum youth do not have this as an option and that is why we are starting this Direct Cash Transfer program. We want to help give them a leg up, to launch them into adulthood —to give them the opportunity of financial support just like I, my sons, and 79% of American families have had.”
The youth decide how to use the money they receive from this program. Spectrum provides supportive programming to equip these young people with the resources they need to make the decisions they’ve determined are best for their lives.
“Throughout the program, the young people will have ongoing access to a case manager to support them with financial literacy, housing navigation, case management and access to referrals as needed,” Redmond states.
These ten youth are the first cohort in what Spectrum hopes to be a 3.5-year-long pilot program with three cohorts. The first two years of the program are fully funded as a Congressionally Directed Spending project through Senator Welch’s office and an anonymous donor.
Sara Brooks, Housing Intake Coordinator, brought the idea of DCT to Spectrum and was integral in the selection of the youth. Brooks states, “We knew we wanted to use this visionary new program to support Burlington’s most underserved young people – we painstakingly crafted, together with our community (staff, administrators, young people, and DCT diversity experts), an equity prioritization and lottery hybrid model to determine participants.”
To design the program, Spectrum partnered with Point Source Youth (PSY), a national organization dedicated to eliminating youth homelessness in the United States by placing power and resources into the hands of young people. PSY, an expert on Direct Cash Transfer programs for youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability, supported Spectrum in developing a nuanced DCT program specifically for youth in the Burlington and St. Albans communities.
This DCT model, called “Cash Plus” (funds plus supportive services), was originally piloted in New York City and studied by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. While there are a few other cities with similar DCT programs for youth nationally, Spectrum is the first program in New England to pilot DCTs for youth facing homelessness.
With similar income pilots that have been studied, research shows that cash is primarily spent on basic needs such as food, utilities, and other essentials. These studies have also found that offering individuals and families struggling with poverty a steady, dependable income does not result in poor spending decisions, an increase in substance use, or reduced motivation to work.
“Cash pilots all over the world have proven that the myths surrounding DCT work are rooted in a combination of stereotypes, racism, and classism,” says Landon (LJ) Woolston, Director of Direct Cash Transfers at Point Source Youth. Having worked alongside Spectrum to design the program over the last six months, Woolston states that one of the unique facets of Spectrum’s DCT program is that the eligibility criteria prioritizes young people dealing with unique life circumstances and oppressed identities (i.e., youth of color, LGBTQ+ youth, youth living with disabilities or chronic illness, trafficking survivors, pregnant/parenting youth, etc.). “Many of our country’s homelessness systems are not designed to support youth; even when they are, they do not support all youth – which is what makes DCTs both necessary and effective,” he said.
Redmond is optimistic about this pilot program, “We have a data consultant who will be able to let us know over the next several years if DCTs are working, if the program is making a difference. Because if it is, we will make the case to continue it and to expand it.”
Located in Burlington, Vermont, Spectrum Youth & Family Services helps teens and young adults ages 14-24 meet their basic needs, access mental health counseling and substance use disorder, and get help with employment, education, and living independently to thrive as young adults. Learn more at www.spectrumvt.org
Point Source Youth works with communities large and small, alongside local youth advocates to ensure that experiences of youth homelessness are rare, brief and non-recurring. Our team advances affirming, data-backed solutions such as rapid re-housing, host homes, and direct cash transfers that place power and resources directly in the hands of youth experiencing homelessness—with a focus on youth who are disproportionately impacted. Learn more at www.pointsourceyouth.org