Following Faith

Faith-based groups lead the way in helping the homeless, study shows

First Published      Last Updated Apr 13 2017 01:35 pm

Faith-based ministries and missions are at the forefront when it comes to not only providing the homeless with shelter beds, but also effectively dealing with the root causes of homelessness, a Baylor University study shows.

The recently released report was compiled in 2016 with data from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and local agencies in 11 "sample cities" — Baltimore; Jacksonville, Fla.; Atlanta; Indianapolis; Omaha, Neb.; Houston; Denver; Phoenix; San Diego; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle.

Researchers from Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion found that faith-based organizations accounted for 58 percent of emergency shelter beds in those cities, along with accompanying educational, health care, job training and addiction-recovery services.

The authors concluded that these organizations save taxpayers $9.42 compared to each dollar invested in homeless "safety net" programs by government agencies.

Researchers stated that in the areas of housing and job-readiness programs, faith-based groups are especially "at the forefront of program innovation and organizational transformation for improving positive outcomes for the homeless individuals and families."

Study co-authors Byron Johnson, founding director of the institute, and William Wubbenhorst, a nonresident fellow and research collaborator, said these successes in homeless programming stemmed in part from differences in perspective — and faith-based groups' emphasis on developing relationships with clients.

"What government agencies and public policymakers see as the cause of homelessness, namely, the lack of housing, many [faith-based organizations] see as a symptom of a deeper problem," they wrote. "As one [such] service provider told us: "People don't become homeless when they run out of money, at least not right away. They become homeless when they run out of relationships.' "

Read more about how Utah churches help the homeless here.

Bob Mims