Date of Graduation

Spring 5-15-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Affairs (MoPA)


College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Diana Negrin

Second Advisor

Timothy Redmond

Third Advisor

Rachel Brahinsky


To combat conditions of poverty, government and non-profit institutions facilitate welfare programs that target conditions such as health, food, education, or income. Programs that offer income assistance in the form of cash transfers communicate political and cultural attitudes about who is deserving of aid, and who is not deserving. The more spending freedoms cash transfer programs offer their beneficiaries, the more strictly they target populations that are considered worthy of assistance. A review of cash transfer programs reveals that people experiencing homelessness are culturally viewed as the most undeserving of government assistance. Unhoused people are routinely excluded from welfare programs that apply cash transfers, especially programs with fewer restrictions on spending and participation. Using my experience as a manager of a conditional cash transfer program for people who are homeless, I discuss how cash transfers contradict systemic mistrust. I review literature on cash transfers in the U.S. and abroad to investigate their outcomes; not only how recipients personally benefited, but also how outcomes validate or invalidate perceptions of deservingness. The success of unconditional cash transfer programs can help dispel long-held conceptions that people who are unhoused are more undeserving of cash assistance. Since there are virtually no studies on unconditional cash transfers that target people who are homeless specifically, my findings are derived from interviews, literature and program reviews, and personal experience administering a cash transfer program.