Google is giving hundreds of recently homeless families across the Bay Area $1,000 a month to see if the no-strings-attached payments can help keep a roof over their heads.

The program, part of the tech giant’s $1 billion pledge to combat the region’s housing crisis, is one of a growing number of “guaranteed income” pilots launched in recent years to determine whether unconditional payments can alleviate the Bay Area’s staggering wealth disparity.

Mountain View-based Google’s philanthropic arm — along with other corporate Silicon Valley charitable groups, such as the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Sobrato Philanthropies — has also put millions of dollars toward similar cash programs, including a recent pilot that sent $750 a month to 100 homeless residents in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

“Direct cash giving is a promising new approach to homelessness, and we’re excited to support this pilot as a part of our broader commitment to increasing housing in the Bay Area,” Justin Steele, a director at Google’s philanthropy division, said in a statement.

Over the next five years, the new program, dubbed It All Adds Up, will provide on a rolling basis 225 families with $1,000 payments for 12 months each. Another 225 families, a control group in the trial, will receive $50 monthly over the same time frame.

New York University’s Housing Solutions Lab will study the program to determine whether the payments are effective at keeping people housed over the long term, as well as mental health and financial outcomes.

Families selected for the pilot must have already participated in housing programs managed by the San Francisco nonprofits Compass Family Services or Hamilton Families, which are also helping administer the pilot. Some families have already begun receiving payments, and others will enroll in the coming years. The majority of participants will come from San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Advocates for guaranteed income programs say providing low-income people money to use as they see fit — rather than specific vouchers such as food stamps — provides true financial independence, allowing recipients to afford their most pressing needs, avoid debt and find better jobs.

Still, conservative critics argue such programs erode people’s self-sufficiency and incentive to work. Others worry large-scale guaranteed income efforts at the federal level could siphon resources from other safety net programs such as Medicare or Social Security.

Results from the program that handed out the $750 payments in the Bay Area and Los Angeles found homeless participants overwhelmingly used the money to cover everyday necessities — food, housing and transportation. The assistance helped some recipients get off the street once they could afford rent or the costs of moving into an apartment. And there was no evidence they used the cash on drugs and alcohol, according to researchers at the University of Southern California studying the program, called Miracle Money.

Across the Bay Area, local governments have also begun experimenting with guaranteed income.

In 2020, a program in Santa Clara County provided $1,000 monthly payments to 72 young adults leaving foster care. That same year, Oakland began providing $500 monthly payments to 300 low-income families and expanded the program to 600 families. South San Francisco recently started sending $500 in monthly assistance to more than 150 low-income families. Alameda and Mountain View have approved similar programs.

At the state level, South Bay State Sen. Dave Cortese has proposed a bill to give 15,000 high school seniors without a fixed address direct cash assistance. The bill is based in part on a Santa Clara County program backed by Cortese set to offer monthly stipends of $1,200 to 50 homeless students starting this summer to help them transition into college or a career.

One of the first guaranteed income pilots, launched by the city of Stockton, paid more than 100 residents $500 a month starting in 2019. Researchers found the payments likely improved the recipients’ financial stability and health but said the impact appears to have been lessened by the economic upheaval of the pandemic.

“Behind the numbers are real people who are able to breathe easier, experience stability, and access more opportunities than they previously thought possible,” Michael D. Tubbs, former Stockton mayor and founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, said in a statement. “Guaranteed income is smart policy that puts us within reach of an America without poverty.”