Effectiveness of Non-Profit Shelter Programs
I’ve been looking at the following document: NATIONAL SURVEY OF HOMELESS ASSISTANCE PROVIDERS AND CLIENTS (NSHAPC) which is based on the US Census Bureau survey of 40,000 service providers in the US. You can find a copy of it (about 70 pages) here
Administrators of housing programs were asked where their clients went after leaving the program. Administrators of housing programs tend to know where their clients go after leaving their program. On average, administrators of faith-based housing programs know the destinations of about 75 percent of their unaccompanied individual clients and 90 percent of their family clients. The corresponding figures for secular non-profit housing programs are 86 percent of unaccompanied individuals and 90 percent of families.
The top three destinations are the same irrespective of whether the client is alone or with children and whether the program is run by a faith-based or secular non-profit agency. These destinations are (1) a family or friend’s housing, (2) private unsubsidized housing, and (3) government subsidized housing.
Where they went afterward……… Faith Based……. Secular…… (both are non profits. The figures below apply to individuals, not families)
1) Family or Friends housing……….17.6 ……………….25.1
2) Private Unsubsidized……………….21.6………………..17.7
3) government subsidized………….. 13.0………………. 14.3
4) transitional housing…………………. 9.7………………… 7.3
on average success…………………… 61.9………………. 64.6
5) The streets or other outside……12.7………………… 8.7
6) Other emergency shelter………. 11.6……………….. 8.9
7) Other (jail, hospital, etc)………… 13.8………………. 18.8
The above data (from Table 11 of the document) seems to show that Secular non-profits are slightly more effective than faith based non-profits in moving the homeless off the streets. and much more effective in putting homeless back into family or friends housing.
The success rate for either is slightly better than 60%. However, about 9 to 12% of individuals moving from shelter to shelter and another 9 to 12% going right back to the streets. For families, the rates are as follows:
Faith Based:……. 76.2% into housing of some type ……17.6% to street or other shelter
Secular:…………… 82.3% into housing of some type…….11.1% to street or other shelter
Secular programs seem to be doing somewhat better than Faith based programs for families and only slightly better for individuals.
Not the result I expected.
So What is the Difference in These Programs?
The earlier part of this post has some startling revelations – Secular run shelters seem to have an overall higher rate of success on all levels than comparable Faith-based run shelters.
I’m going out on a limb here to stimulate thought and see where it takes us.
I’m assuming that both Faith Based and Secular shelters have essentially the same rules, at least as far as alcohol and drug use, curfews, and disorderly conduct, theft and other such behavior, particularly when spread out over 40,000 shelters in the survey. I’m also assuming that both Faith Based and Secular shelter administrators and staff are both caring, have good hearts, and run the shelters in a firm but loving manner.
So… What really is the difference?
Probably not the homeless, not the food, not the counseling and other secular services of both types of shelters, and not the compassion of their staffs. Not the need for information and not the testing. I expect these to be about the same for both types of shelters. Not even the location.
Maybe, just maybe it is that there is a percentage of the homeless that are completely set on being independent in their thinking about religion, and a desire to not be forced into attending sermons, bible study, listening to “going to hell” lectures in order to get a meal, that drop out of the Faith based shelter and not the secular run shelter..
The difference is this: secular ministris strive to feed and shelter the poor (period) and faith based ministries strive to feed and shelter the poor with a goal of spreading the Good News. How does that make a difference in the statistics?
There are at least four categories of homeless.
1 The homeless that do not have a clue as to how to get into a shelter or the shelters are “always full”. These are not included in the survey cited.
2 There is a set of homeless that never go to a shelter because “they have too many rules” such as alcohol and drug use. This may also include those on the run and those evicted for some incident at a shelter. These are not included in the survey cited.
3 There is a set that will tolerate rules and go but do not want to “jump through hoops” to get a meal or bed (mandetory sermons, bible study, etc).
4 There is a set that is just overjoyed to be able to find a safe place to sleep and get a good meal that will tolerate and even welcome the rules and the need to jump theough hoops.
It is set 3 that I’m suggesting may make the difference between the two programs. The Faith based programs may have lost those in group 3 whereas the Secular programs may have not.
A Faith-based shelter that provides ample opportunity for church, bible study, prayer and spiritual discussion should be very successful. What I’m suggesting is that it should also not be mandatory if the goal is a true ministry to feed the weak, and the poor. I suspect that those that choose not to attend available religious services will get some peer pressure to reconsider, but active pressure should be discouraged so as to serve as many as possible.
Here is my point: Going out and spreading the Gospel is one thing. Feeding and housing the needy is another. Jesus told us to do both. Forcing religion on people does not work because conversion is only possible through the Holy Spirit. Providing an opportunity is all that is needed for both food for the body and food for the soul, but a ministry to the poor, needy and homeless should not have hoops to jump through other than absolutely necessary for safety of those present.
I invite you to tell me where I’m wrong and/or add your comments and expertise to this discussion.