Faith and Homelessness: Examining the Influence of the Faith-Based Component of a Transitional Housing Program on the Attitudes and Behaviors of Homeless Men

Faith and Homelessness: Examining the Influence of the Faith-Based Component of a Transitional Housing Program on the Attitudes and Behaviors of Homeless Men

Homelessness is a social and public policy concern. In the United States, homelessness is a problem with multiple and complex causes that include mental illness and the effects of physical, economic, and social conditions such as extreme poverty, exposure to the elements, mental and substance abuse disorders, malnutrition, and victimization. Transitional housing is a temporary option offered as a response to homelessness, recognizing that if individuals are provided with shelter, they may be supported in their attempt to achieve self-sufficiency.

There is some evidence that supports the benefits of federally funded transitional housing programs, but to date, few studies have been conducted on faith-based transitional housing programs. These programs often suffer from limited resources and rely instead on providing a faith-based continuum of care to help the homeless achieve independence.

This mixed-methods study was designed to examine how one faith-based transitional housing program facility located in Southern California was able to change the attitudes and behaviors of homeless men regarding their lives and their propensity to remain homeless. A pre- and post-survey was administered to 108 homeless men. The men were also observed as they participated in the program activities over a 9 month period. Ten interviews were conducted with a subgroup of those surveyed to explore from their perspective how this faith-based intervention approach supported and/or challenged their recovery.

Findings suggest that the attitudes and behaviors of the homeless men who participated in the program were changed, especially those who were in the program for 9 months or more. The majority of the men attributed the change to the faith-based focus of the program. Differences emerged, however, between the men who were in the program for 9 months or more versus those in the program less than 9 months. Nine-month or more participants claimed that they were willing to “surrender” their old ways of thinking and living. In contrast, participants less than 9 months were unable to relinquish their former lifestyle. This failure was related to individual pride and/or challenges with addictions. This study provides important lessons for faith-based organizations aiming to develop specific strategies of care that support the needs of homeless men.

PUBLICATION DATE: 2017