September 22, 2020

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Why a Christian Approach to Fighting Homelessness Pays Off

Study: Ministries saved taxpayers $119 million in 11 cities by offering both housing and healing.
Why a Christian Approach to Fighting Homelessness Pays Off

When it comes to America’s homeless, Christian organizations set out to do more than offer a hot meal and safe place to stay. They believe that in order to best serve their needy neighbors, they must get to know them.

“Instead of being a kitchen cook, you’d be out at the tables with the people,” said Jim Reese, president and CEO of Atlanta Mission, which serves 1,000 homeless men, women, and children a day in its shelters, programs, and transitional homes. “How do you change lives? It comes from creating a relationship with them and building trust.”

Though religious nonprofits in some locales have faced escalating restrictions on homeless outreach in recent years, their efforts are working. Researchers discovered that faith-based organizations’ relational approach leads to a deeper understanding of the complexity of homelessness and better outcomes for their clients and cities.

Ministries provide 60 percent of emergency shelter spots available in 11 major American cities, and the more faith-based shelters operating, the smaller its homeless population, according to a Baylor University study published last month.

In the 11 locations studied (Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Omaha, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, and Seattle), faith-based nonprofits were particularly effective at reducing the homeless population, and saved taxpayers an estimated $119 million with their care and training.

“While government programs and public policy address homelessness directly as the problem, the faith community often sees it as symptomatic of more complex personal and societal conditions stemming from relational poverty and family fragmentation,” the study concluded, …

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