Miracle friends and miracle money in California: a mixed-methods experiment of social support and guaranteed income for people experiencing homelessness

Benjamin F. Henwood, Bo Kyung Elizabeth Kim, Amy Stein, Gisele Corletto, Himal Suthar, Kevin F. Adler, Madeline Mazzocchi, Julia Ip, Deborah K. Padgett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: This paper describes the protocols for a randomized controlled trial using a parallel-group trial design that includes an intervention designed to address social isolation and loneliness among people experiencing homelessness known as Miracle Friends and an intervention that combines Miracles Friends with an economic poverty-reduction intervention known as Miracle Money. Miracle Friends pairs an unhoused person with a volunteer “phone buddy.” Miracle Money provides guaranteed basic income of $750 per month for 1 year to Miracle Friends participants. The study will examine whether either intervention reduces social isolation or homelessness compared to a waitlist control group. Methods: Unhoused individuals who expressed interest in the Miracle Friends program were randomized to either receive the intervention or be placed on a waitlist for Miracle Friends. Among those randomized to receive the Miracle Friends intervention, randomization also determined whether they would be offered Miracle Money. The possibility of receiving basic income was only disclosed to study participants if they were randomly selected and participated in the Miracle Friends program. All study participants, regardless of assignment, were surveyed every 3 months for 15 months. Results: Of 760 unhoused individuals enrolled in the study, 256 were randomized to receive Miracle Friends, 267 were randomized to receive Miracle Money, and 237 were randomized to the waitlist control group. In the two intervention groups, 360 of 523 unhoused individuals were initially matched to a phone buddy. Of the 191 study participants in the Miracle Money group who had been initially matched to a volunteer phone buddy, 103 were deemed to be participating in the program and began receiving monthly income. Discussion: This randomized controlled trial will determine whether innovative interventions involving volunteer phone support and basic income reduce social isolation and improve housing outcomes for people experiencing homelessness. Although we enrolled unhoused individuals who initially expressed interest in the Miracle Friends program, the study team could not reach approximately 30% of individuals referred to the study. This may reflect the general lack of stability in the lives of people who are unhoused or limitations in the appeal of such a program to some portion of the unhoused population. Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT05408884 (first submitted on May 26, 2022).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number290
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


  • Basic income
  • Cash transfers
  • Community integration
  • Guaranteed income
  • Homelessness
  • Isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Relational poverty
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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