By Lindsey Toomer
See original post here.
Advocates for the Denver Basic Income Project rallied at the Colorado Capitol on Friday to urge local leaders to support additional funding for the program, which provides direct cash assistance to people experiencing homelessness.
In honor of Basic Income National Day of Action, DBIP leadership and other supporters marched from the Colorado Capitol to the Denver City and County Building to demand Mayor Mike Johnston fund another year of the program.
The project is coming to the end of its first full-scale launch of the program, which was possible thanks to funding from the city. Mark Donovan, founder and director of the DBIP, said the project needs support from city leaders in order to extend for another year. Johnston’s latest budget proposal did not include funding for the project.
“Today’s a day to celebrate the power of people coming together to believe that a better future is possible for everyone today, not tomorrow,” Donovan said. “We’ve seen people finding their path to housing, to work, to safety, to stability. We are seeing that this works, and we want to keep it going.”
Donovan said the DBIP has distributed over $5.9 million to over 800 people experiencing homelessness in Denver. He said getting money from the project has helped people experience freedom and the ability to care for themselves.
“We believe when we give people cash and when we provide an income floor below which nobody falls, given with trust and autonomy, people have a path to thriving,”Donovan said.
April Marie participated in the first iteration of the Denver Basic Income Project, and said at the rally that it helped her get through school and get her own home.
“It isn’t too good to be true,” Marie said. “The DBIP family literally kept me alive this year, and I am forever grateful. It’s easy to dismiss when it is someone else’s struggles, but the right crises can cause many of us to lose everything.”
Willie Larkins said DBIP saved his life and gave him a future he didn’t see prior. He said working together to help other people find the success he has is essential to helping the city thrive.
“It inspired me to know that I had someone, something or somebody that had faith in me,” Larkins said. “And that faith gave me all the strength I needed to look at myself, to want more, to do better.”
The DBIP family literally kept me alive this year, and I am forever grateful.
– April Marie, Denver Basic Income recipient
Denver City Council member Shontel Lewis spoke in support of DBIP and said she’d push her colleagues on council to fund the program. She’s worked in support of DBIP since its inception, and she said she hopes Johnston thinks about a “multitude of strategies” to support people experiencing homelessness.
“We can’t build self-autonomy and trust from those who feel disenfranchised in our society if our society doesn’t first trust them to be autonomous,” Lewis said.
Denver is going through its budgeting process for 2024, and Lewis described a budget as a “moral document.” She said as the city continues to work through the process, it presents an opportunity for city leaders to “check our morality.”
“This is a great opportunity for us to show our most vulnerable folks in our community that we love and care about them and that we’re willing to prioritize them in our budgets,” Lewis said.
Jose Salas, spokesperson for Johnston, said in an email that the mayor’s office looks forward “to reviewing the report of metrics once a full year of the program concludes,” since it is still in its pilot phase.
State Rep. Javier Mabrey, a Denver Democrat, also spoke in support of DBIP, citing a recent survey on homelessness that found 40% of Denver’s unhoused population have jobs and simply can’t afford rent.
“Greedy landlords are doubling and tripling rent to line their pockets in the pursuit of unlimited profits at the expense of human dignity, and this project is the city standing up and saying no,” Mabrey said. “We should have dignity — that people should be able to afford housing, that people should be able to put food on the table, that people should be able to afford health care. These should be basic human rights.”
Mabrey also noted the high budget line for public safety Johnston proposed, and said investing in programs like the Basic Income Project addresses crime and public safety at its root.
Rudy Gonzales is CEO and president of Servicios de La Raza, the largest Latino-oriented nonprofit of its kind in the state that provides human services support to anyone who needs it. He said having worked with Johnston in the past, he’s disappointed that there isn’t money in the city’s budget “to do this work for every single person in our city.”
“As we support the Denver Basic Income Project, we support everybody — whether you’re a citizen or not — receiving a basic income so you don’t have to work 40 jobs to pay rent, to put food on the table, to get medicine, to get health care, to get an education,” Gonzales said. “You don’t have to do that. But what we have to do is make sure that our government responds to us.”