The 1996 National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients: A Comparison of Faith-Based and Secular Non-Profit Programs. Clients of Homeless Assistance Programs

03/19/2002

NSHAPC asked program administrators a number of questions about the clients of their programs, including whether “on an average day in February 1996 that the [emergency shelter or other type of] program operated, did the program serve (1) families with children (follow-up questions ask what share were single- versus two-parent, and among the single parent, what share were female headed), (2) two-parent families with children, (3) adults without children, and (4) unaccompanied youth or children, 17 years of age or under?  It is important to note that the answers to these questions reflect the types of clients actually served by homeless assistance programs, and not the types of clients they are willing or able to serve.  It should also be noted that these clients may or may not be homeless.  Clients of housing programs such as emergency and transitional shelters are clearly homeless, but clients of soup kitchen or health programs need not be homeless.15  Tables 3and 4 and Figure 3 present the share of faith-based and secular non-profits serving each of the following types of clients: men by themselves, women by themselves, female-headed households with children, other households with children, and youth.  The data do not reveal what share of clients are from these groups, but simply whether or not the program serves any such clients.

Figure 3:
Percentage of Faith-Based and Secular Nonprofit Programs Serving Various Population Groups

Figure 3a: Percentage of Faith-Based and Secular Nonprofit Programs Serving Various Population GroupsFigure 3b: Percentage of Faith-Based and Secular Nonprofit Programs Serving Various Population GroupsFigure 3c: Percentage of Faith-Based and Secular Nonprofit Programs Serving Various Population Groups

Faith-based programs are more likely than secular non-profits to serve different types of clients, especially single men.

As the first rows of Tables 3 and 4 indicate, faith-based programs are generally more likely than secular non-profits to serve each of the five client groups covered.  Almost 90 percent of faith-based programs serve single men, and almost 85 percent serve women by themselves and single women with children.  The group most often served by secular non-profits is single women (80 percent of them report serving such clients), followed by females with children (served by 77 percent of secular non-profits), and single men (72 percent).  Not surprisingly given their unique needs and circumstances, the group least likely to be served by either type of program is youth.  Youth are served by only 36 percent of faith-based programs and 31 percent of secular non-profits. 

Table 3:
Proportion of Faith-Based Non-profit Programs Serving Each Population Group
  Total # of programs Men by themselves Women by themselves Female-headed with children Other households with children Youth
All Program Types 12,599 88.4 84.9 84.3 77.9 35.7
Housing 3,783 75.4 67.6 67.9 53.1 19.0
  Emergency Shelter 1,520 80.2 69.7 67.5 52.9 22.9
  Transitional Shelter 1,181 58.9 49.7 57.8 33.4 10.3
  Permanent Housing 205 77.0 58.4 53.6 49.6 17.8
  Distribute Vouchers 743 93.0 92.0 91.6 87.4 27.8
  Housing For Vouchers 134 66.5 81.8 52.5 43.5 5.1
Food 6,907 94.9 93.7 95.8 92.8 45.3
  Soup Kitchen/Meal Distribution 2,131 97.5 96.7 90.3 86.0 60.3
  Food Pantry 4,628 93.7 92.4 98.9 96.4 38.2
  Mobile Food 148 97.1 94.0 76.5 75.9 50.6
Health 131 96.0 82.2 47.0 46.2 23.5
  Physical Health Care . . . . . .
  Mental Health . . . . . .
  Alcohol or Drug . . . . . .
  HIV/AIDS . . . . . .
Other 1,778 90.4 87.4 77.3 75.0 35.2
  Outreach 505 90.3 87.5 78.4 74.4 49.6
  Drop-In Center 450 85.2 68.5 55.3 52.1 34.8
  Financial/Housing Assistance 277 89.2 98.5 86.3 85.2 14.8
  Other 546 95.4 97.4 90.0 89.4 32.4

Source:  Urban Institute analysis of NSHAPC program data.  Data represent "an average day in February 1996."


Table 4
Proportion of Secular Non-profit Programs Serving Each Population Group
  Total # of programs Men by themselves Women by themselves Female-headed with children Other households with children Youth
All Program Types 18,751 71.5 80.4 76.7 59.8 30.6
Housing 8,664 56.4 72.1 70.8 41.9 18.5
  Emergency Shelter 3,480 36.9 74.7 74.6 35.9 25.6
  Transitional Shelter 2,535 53.6 60.2 59.1 32.7 11.9
  Permanent Housing 980 89.6 81.9 47.9 39.0 7.0
  Distribute Vouchers 1,361 85.3 82.6 98.4 75.2 23.1
  Housing For Vouchers 307 65.4 62.4 76.2 48.0 8.4
Food 4,858 86.8 92.7 86.2 80.8 42.3
  Soup Kitchen/Meal Distribution 1,057 90.8 92.9 63.1 58.2 48.6
  Food Pantry 3,560 86.7 92.3 97.1 91.3 40.9
  Mobile Food 241 72.4 98.3 25.5 24.2 35.5
Health 1,034 90.0 90.5 62.2 58.4 29.9
  Physical Health Care 215 92.5 92.5 75.9 72.2 58.0
  Mental Health 250 93.4 93.1 52.1 49.0 17.9
  Alcohol or Drug 363 86.4 85.1 55.7 52.5 16.0
  HIV/AIDS 206 89.5 94.9 71.5 65.6 39.5
Other 4,195 80.5 80.9 81.6 72.7 42.2
  Outreach 1,922 77.6 84.9 80.0 73.8 43.5
  Drop-In Center 1,083 81.1 88.0 75.2 65.1 43.3
  Financial/Housing Assistance 452 96.8 50.5 96.2 65.5 11.6
  Other 738 77.4 78.5 86.2 85.0 55.7

Source:  Urban Institute analysis of NSHAPC program data.  Data represent "an average day in February 1996."


A closer look at specific types of programs reveals that differences in the client groups served by faith-based and secular non-profits depend on both the population group and the type of program.  Beginning with single men, Tables 3 and 4 show that the vast majority (88 percent) of faith-based non-profits serve single men, while a smaller but still substantial share (72 percent) of secular non-profits serve this group.  For food programs, almost 95 percent of faith-based programs serve single men compared to 87 percent of secular programs.  The share of programs serving single men is lowest among housing programs (75 percent of faith-based programs and 56 percent of secular programs), but differences between faith-based and secular non-profits are found among all types of homeless assistance programs.

The patterns are less clear for single women.  While 85 percent of all faith-based programs serve single women compared to 80 percent of secular non-profits, among specific types of programs — such as health or housing programs — a larger share of secular non-profits than faith-based programs serve single women.  This is true of most types of housing programs and several types of health programs.  Almost all food programs run by either type of sponsoring agency serve single women, but a larger share of faith-based agencies running “other” types of programs serve single women than do secular non-profits.

Patterns of service for female-headed households with children are similar to those for single women.  Faith-based programs as a group are generally more likely to serve female-headed families than are secular programs, but secular health, housing, and “other” programs are all more likely to have such clients than are faith-based programs.  Thus, only for food programs do a much larger percentage of faith-based agencies (96 percent) serve women with children than do secular non-profits (86 percent).

Other families (i.e., those headed by two parents, one male parent, or no parents) are less frequently served by both secular and faith-based non-profits, with 78 percent of faith-based and 60 percent of secular non-profit programs serving these families.  Still, 93 percent of faith-based food programs serve this population as do 81 percent of secular non-profits.  The share of programs serving these family types drops dramatically when programs other than food programs are examined.  Fifty-three and 42 percent of faith-based and secular housing programs serve this group of clients, and 46 and 58 percent of health programs do.

The last population group is unaccompanied youth, who are served by just 36 percent of all faith-based programs and 31 percent of secular programs.  This is the one group that is not served by most faith-based food programs:  45 percent of these programs report having unaccompanied youth among their clients.  Compared to similar programs run by faith-based agencies, youth are served by a larger share of secular health and “other” programs, but the percentages that serve youth are small among all types of programs. 

In general, faith-based programs of all types are much more likely than secular programs to serve single men.  This is the only client group for which this is true.  For other groups of clients, faith-based providers are more likely to serve them if one looks at all types of programs combined, but this finding is driven almost entirely by food programs, which account for the majority of faith-based programs.  When one looks at other types of programs such as housing or health programs, secular non-profits are often more likely to serve some types of clients than are faith-based non-profits (see Figure 3).

Although the number of programs decreases dramatically when these findings are broken down by urban-rural status and region, one broad pattern does emerge:  both faith-based and secular programs in rural areas are more likely to serve clients from each population group than do the same programs in suburban areas and especially in urban areas.  This may reflect the inclusion of more generic social service programs in the sampling plan used for NSHAPC in rural areas.  The relative scarcity of homeless programs and homeless clients in rural areas may mean that rural area programs, even homeless-specific ones, may not have enough volume to specialize and may have to be more flexible in serving anyone in need of assistance.


15.  Certain questions in the mail survey are limited to the needs of clients “who are homeless.”  Later sections of this report indicate when the findings pertain to homeless clients specifically.