Three years in: Our $1 billion Bay Area housing effort

Using philanthropy to test innovative solutions

Over the next three years, we’re giving more than $10 million of our 2019 $50 million Google.org grant commitment and providing pro bono support to select Bay Area nonprofits. These organizations are starting programs to test the impact of cash transfers on housing stability for community members experiencing homelessness. With cash transfers, money is directly provided to people to spend on things like rent, medical expenses, food, or other day-to-day expenses. Our funding will go toward direct cash support, infrastructure for the nonprofits and randomized impact evaluation. This way, critical research can be used to have a systemic effect to assist in providing stable housing.

Google.org has been a longtime supporter of cash transfers, having distributed over $31 million globally, and providing over 235,000 households with cash support to improve their financial resilience and weather economic uncertainty. Research has shown that giving recipients the ability to decide how they spend their money leads to increases in economic and psychological well-being, physical health and household purchasing power. A randomized evaluation in Canada found a one-time cash transfer to individuals experiencing homelessness leads to quicker housing stability and spending fewer days unsheltered.

There is little to no research, however, of the effect of cash transfers on a demographic like Bay Area homeless communities. To better understand the impact, Google.org is supporting the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) in partnering with several leading homeless service providers in the Bay Area. Through the Bay Area Evaluation (BAE) Incubator, providers are building their capacity to design and implement randomized evaluations of cash transfer programs.

In addition to J-PAL North America’s effort, Google.org is supporting some emerging cash transfer pilots:

  • Bay Area Community Services (BACS), alongside UCSF, is running a longitudinal study aimed at determining the effect of cash assistance for 100 Oakland households on housing stability and homelessness prevention while also measuring potential reduction of racial disparities in those who become homeless.
  • Chapin Hall, in partnership with Point Source Youth and Larkin Street Youth Services, will be launching community engagement work to prepare for a Bay Area expansion of a national effort. Their program tests the effectiveness of direct cash transfers and support programs on housing stability and well-being for young adults facing housing insecurity.
  • Miracle Messages, in partnership with the University of Southern California, will conduct a randomized controlled trial for people experiencing homelessness. The trial adds cash assistance to social support programming to measure multiple outcomes including housing stability, food security and mental health.

As we provide funding, we’re evaluating impact to determine the most effective cash transfer delivery models and programs for reducing homelessness. It’s our hope these grants will not only help individuals and families experiencing housing insecurity, but also expand the evidence base around the effectiveness of cash transfer programs, particularly in high-income communities like the Bay Area.

With this $10 million in grant funding, we’ve granted a total of $18 million of our 2019 Google.org commitment to Bay Area nonprofits providing services like food distribution, job training and case management. Through these grants, these organizations will help provide services to more than 90,000 people and house 10,000 individuals over the span of four years. It’s a testament to the impact philanthropy can have on the housing crisis.

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