Denver Basic Income Project applications for homeless now accepted

A program that will provide up to $12,000 in direct payments to a small group of homeless people and families in Denver over the course of 12 months is now accepting applications.

The Denver Basic Income Project announced Monday that its application window is open through Nov. 3 at 5 p.m.

The project will provide financial support to 820 individuals or families in Denver that are living in homeless shelters, on the streets or who otherwise do not have stable housing.

Once selected, participants in the program will be randomly assigned to one of three groups that will receive different levels of financial support. Those groups are:

  • 260 individuals or families who will receive an up-front payment of $6,500 and then $500 per month over 11 months.
  • 260 individuals or families who will receive $1,000 a month over 12 months.
  • 300 individuals and families who will receive $50 a month over 12 months.

All participants must agree to be part of an analysis of the program. That work will be led by the University of Denver’s Center for Housing and Homelessness Research and include regular surveys checking in on recipients’ health, well-being, housing situation and financial stability, according to program leaders.

“Research tells us direct cash assistance is a powerful way to reduce wealth inequality and improve human thriving, and we are ready to apply our learnings from our pilot projects into this 12-month program,” Mark Donovan, the Denver Basic Income Project’s founder, said in a statement Monday.

Donovan and his group has partnered with 16 service providers that work directly with the homeless community to identify candidates to receive the payments. Those partners include the Colorado Village Collaborative, the Colorado Colation for the Homeless and Volunteers of America Colorado.

Unhoused people who have not worked with one of those partner organizations over the last six months should fill out an interest form online at The interest form will remain active through Oct. 21, then applicants from that portal will be paired with one of the 16 partner organizations to work with throughout the program, officials said.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old and housing insecure, including those couch-surfing with family and friends, staying in motels or living out of a vehicle. Applicants with severe and unaddressed mental health or substance use needs will not be accepted, program runners said.

The Denver City Council approved a $2 million contract with the Denver Basic Income last month. That money, drawn from the city’s share of the federal COVID-19 relief bill the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, is earmarked specifically for women, families with children under 18 years old, as well as transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming individuals. The focus, city officials say, is because those groups were especially vulnerable to the economic damage done by the virus and the city wants to use its one-time federal dollars to support them.

“We have seen particular increases in the number of women using our shelter system. We have seen a tripling of that over the course of the pandemic,” Jennifer Biess, director of data, policy and strategy for the city’s Department of Housing Stability, said during a council committee meeting covering the program this summer. “We have also seen an increase in the use of the family shelter system.”

Kristi Burton Brown, the chair of the Colorado Republican Party, went on Fox News last month to decry Denver Basic Income Project’s payments as unsustainable and blast the city’s focus on supporting transgender and gender-nonconforming people with its contributions. Burton has since called on the city to specifically include veterans in the groups it wants to support.

The Denver Basic Income Project has drawn funding from several sources for the $7.2 million it raised so far. Just Denver’s contribution is specifically earmarked, officials with the project say. The rest of the project’s eventual $9 million total budget “will support any and all qualified applicants regardless of race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status.”

Payments will go out on a rolling basis as qualified applicants are chosen, project spokeswoman Abby Leeper Gibson said Monday. The first payments will begin on Nov. 15.

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