Even as millions of people lost money during the 2020 pandemic, wealth grew for those at the top, including Denver entrepreneur and philanthropist Mark Donovan.
“I decided that I needed to more actively give back,” Donovan says, “to both acknowledge the privilege I experience as a white man and the economic and structural benefits I receive.”
First, he gave $1,000 cash a month to 10 people. Touched by the instant effects, Donovan spent $500,000 to launch the Denver Basic Income Project.
Project leaders expect to raise $7.4 million to help 820 Denver residents who currently are unhoused. The project will provide $6,500 upfront for 260 people, followed by $500 a month for 11 months; $1,000 a month for 12 months for another 260 people; and $50 a month to 300 people for completing surveys.
Daniel Brisson, executive director of DU’s Center for Housing and Homelessness Research (CHHR), will help the program conduct a randomized control trial to analyze the effects.
“People experiencing homelessness are in some of the most challenging situations in our country,” Brisson says. In 1992, a Colorado household of two got $280 a month in government help. In 2021, that household gets about $365 a month. While assistance increased by 30%, rent for a two-bedroom apartment rose by more than 200%.
As Brisson notes, the CHHR wants to determine “if some amount of cash, unrestricted cash, can provide an impetus—a point for change and thriving in people’s lives.”