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

03/19/2002

NSHAPC documented just under 40,000 homeless assistance programs operating on an average day in February 1996 (see Table 1 and Figure 1).  Secular non-profits run almost one-half (47 percent) of these, followed by faith-based non-profits (32 percent), and government agencies (13 percent).  Another 0.6 percent of all programs are run by for-profit entities, typically hotels/motels accepting vouchers in exchange for providing a homeless person with one or more nights of accommodation, and for 7 percent of programs, it is not clear what type of organization or agency administers the program.13

Table 1:
NSHAPC Programs by Type of Agency Operating Programs

  Total Number
of Programs
Faith-Based Non-Profit Secular Non-Profit Government For-Profit Unidentified
All Program Types 39,664 (100%) 31.8 47.3 13.4 0.6 6.9
  Housing 15,879 (100%) 23.8 54.6 12.1 0.8 8.7
  Emergency Shelter 5,687 (100%) 26.7 61.2 5.6 0.2 6.3
Transitional Shelter 4,395 (100%) 26.9 57.7 9.9 1.4 4.2
Permanent Housing 1,918 (100%) 10.7 51.1 27.9 0.9 9.4
Distribute Vouchers 3,080 (100%) 24.1 44.2 17.0 0.3 14.4
Housing For Vouchers 799 (100%) 16.7 38.5 14.2 2.5 28.1
  Food 13,003 (100%) 53.1 37.4 5.0 0.4 4.2
    Soup Kitchen/Meal Distribution 3,484 (100%) 61.2 30.3 2.7 0.1 5.7
Food Pantry 9,028 (100%) 51.3 39.4 6.1 0.5 2.8
Mobile Food 491 (100%) 30.1 49.1 0.2 1.0 19.5
Health 2,739 (100%) 4.8 37.7 45.3 0.6 11.6
  Physical Health Care 715 (100%) 5.9 30.1 58.7 0.0 5.3
Mental Health 801 (100%) 1.2 31.2 64.8 0.6 2.3
Alcohol or Drug 778 (100%) 7.9 46.7 23.5 0.7 21.3
HIV/AIDS 446 (100%) 4.0 46.1 26.8 1.6 21.5
  Other 8,043 (100%) 22.1 52.2 18.8 0.7 6.2
  Outreach 3,307 (100%) 15.3 58.1 17.5 0.6 8.5
Drop-In Center 1,790 (100%) 25.1 60.5 7.2 0.3 6.9
Financial/Housing Assist. 1,378 (100%) 20.1 32.8 45.3 0.1 1.7
Other 1,568 (100%) 34.8 47.1 11.6 2.0 4.5

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


Figure 1:
Distribution and Number of Programs Run by Each Sponsoring, for All Programs, for Housing Programs, and Food Programs.

Figure 1: Distribution and Number of Programs Run by Each Sponsoring, for All Programs, for Housing Programs, and Food Programs.

Faith-based organizations administer over half of all food programs and about one-quarter of all housing and drop-in center programs in the country.

In general, faith-based organizations account for over one-half (53 percent) of all food programs while secular non-profits provide most (55 percent) of the housing programs.  The single largest administrators of health programs are government agencies (which run 45 percent of all homeless assistance health programs).  Data on detailed program types shed some additional light on this general pattern.  Faith-based non-profits run most soup kitchens (61 percent), food pantries (51 percent), and many types of non-food programs.  They are responsible for about one-quarter of all emergency shelter, transitional housing, and voucher distribution programs.  Faith-based non-profits also administer over one-quarter of all drop-in centers across the country.

Secular non-profits are also clearly involved in providing many different kinds of homeless assistance services.  In addition to running the majority of shelters and permanent housing programs, secular non-profits administer over one-third of all food programs, including close to 40 percent of all food pantry programs and one-half of all mobile food programs.  They also oversee almost 40 percent of all health programs, including almost one-half of all alcohol and drug programs and HIV/AIDS programs.  Finally, around 60 percent of all outreach and drop-in center programs are run by secular non-profits.

Although government agencies administer less than 15 percent of all homeless assistance programs in the country, they are responsible for almost two-thirds (65 percent) of all mental health care programs and well over one-half (59 percent) of all physical health programs.  They also run about one-quarter of alcohol/drug and HIV/AIDS homeless assistance programs.  In the area of housing, government entities account for more than one-quarter (28 percent) of all permanent housing programs and close to one-half (45 percent) of all financial/housing assistance programs.

Faith-based programs play a much larger role in urban than in rural areas.

Analyses of program type and sponsoring agency by urban-rural location (Table 1A) and region of the country (Table 1B) reveal some interesting deviations from the national picture.  Table 1A makes clear that faith-based programs play a much larger role in urban areas (both central city and suburban) than they do in rural areas.  This is true for all types of programs taken together as well as for specific types of programs.  For food programs, for example, faith-based agencies account for 63 percent of all central city food programs but only 38 percent of all rural food programs.  Government agencies, by contrast, play a critical role in delivering health services in rural areas and a much smaller role in central cities and suburban areas.14  Over two-thirds of homeless assistance rural health programs are administered by government agencies.  In all other places, secular non-profits run the majority of these health programs.  With the exceptions of food programs (which are dominated by faith-based providers in urban areas) and health programs (which are dominated by government agencies in rural areas), secular non-profits tend to be much more consistent in terms of the types of programs they provide in urban versus rural areas.  They administer over one-half of all housing programs and just over one-half of all “other” types of programs in both urban and rural areas.

Table 1a:
NSHAPC Programs by Urban/Rural Status

  Total Number
of Programs
Faith-Based Non-Profit Secular Non-Profit Government For-Profit Unidentified
All Program Types 39,664 (100%) 31.8 47.3 13.4 0.6 6.9
Central Cities
All 19,388 (100%) 36.8 45.9 9.9 0.7 6.7
Housing 7,894 (100%) 28.7 53.8 9.6 0.8 7.2
Food 6,018 (100%) 63.4 28.3 2.6 0.2 5.5
Health 1,379 (100%) 7.5 56.8 29.1 0.7 5.8
Other 4,097 (100%) 23.5 53.0 14.6 1.2 7.7
Suburbs
All 7,694 (100%) 35.1 48.0 7.4 1.1 8.3
Housing 3,230 (100%) 24.2 53.6 8.7 1.8 11.8
Food 3,020 (100%) 53.0 40.0 2.6 0.4 4.0
Health 251 (100%) 2.9 51.0 32.0 2.6 11.5
Other 1,192 (100%) 26.2 52.9 11.0 0.4 9.6
Rural Areas
All 12,583 (100%) 21.9 48.9 22.6 0.2 6.4
Housing 4,754 (100%) 15.5 56.6 18.6 0.0 9.3
Food 3,965 (100%) 37.6 49.1 10.3 0.7 2.3
Health 1,110 (100%) 1.8 11.1 68.4 0.0 18.8
Other 2,754 (100%) 18.3 50.7 28.6 0.0 2.5

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


Table 1b:
NSHAPC Programs by Region of the Country

  Total Number of Programs Faith-Based Non-Profit Secular Non-Profit Government For-Profit Unidentified
All Program Types 39,664 (100%) 31.8 47.3 13.4 0.6 6.9
Northeast
All 7,097 (100%) 28.6 53.6 10.1 0.6 7.0
Housing 2,870 (100%) 16.4 61.3 12.9 0.6 8.8
Food 2,401 (100%) 53.1 37.2 3.6 0.5 5.7
Health 306 (100%) 6.6 69.1 14.1 0.7 9.4
Other 1,521 (100%) 17.4 62.1 14.5 0.7 5.3
South
All 11,101 (100%) 39.0 40.7 13.6 0.5 6.2
Housing 4,309 (100%) 30.0 50.3 10.3 1.1 8.3
Food 4,113 (100%) 58.1 32.2 6.1 0.0 3.5
Health 863 (100%) 4.7 26.9 57.0 0.1 11.2
Other 1,817 (100%) 33.5 43.5 17.9 0.1 5.0
Midwest
All 11,853 (100%) 31.6 43.7 16.2 0.5 8.1
Housing 4,678 (100%) 24.5 47.6 16.9 0.4 10.6
Food 3,945 (100%) 54.6 34.3 6.7 0.8 3.6
Health 736 (100%) 2.8 39.7 35.5 0.0 22.0
Other 2,494 (100%) 16.8 52.6 24.0 0.4 6.3
West
All 9,333 (100%) 25.8 54.6 12.4 1.0 6.2
Housing 3,892 (100%) 21.2 62.9 8.0 1.0 6.9
Food 2,478 (100%) 42.4 51.0 1.7 0.2 4.7
Health 816 (100%) 6.0 34.7 53.8 1.7 3.6
Other 2,147 (100%) 22.3 51.3 17.2 1.6 7.6

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


There are some interesting regional variations too.  Faith-based organizations appear to be responsible for a greater share of programs in the south (where they administer 39 percent of all homeless assistance programs) than in the west or northeast (where they administer just over one-quarter of programs).  The west is the only region of the country where faith-based organizations do not run the majority of all food programs (secular non-profits do).  Although they continue to play a major role in sponsoring food programs, the greater importance of faith-based service providers in the south is largely due to their increased involvement in housing and “other” types of homeless assistance programs.  Faith-based providers run 30 percent of housing programs in the south (compared to only 16 percent of those in the northeast) and 33 percent of all “other” types of homeless assistance programs (compared to only 17 percent in both the mid-west and northeast).  Interestingly, the south and west, where government agencies run the majority of homeless assistance health programs, are responsible for the predominance of government-run health programs nationally.  In the northeast, government agencies are responsible for less than 15 percent of all health programs (almost 70 percent of these programs are in fact run by secular non-profits).


13.  Programs with unidentified sponsoring agencies were eliminated from further analysis.  Those administered by government agencies are retained for some of the initial tables.

14.  Recall that the definition of what constituted a program for the purposes of NSHAPC had to be  expanded in rural locations to include agencies serving some homeless people even if this was not a focus of the agency.  The expansion brought in 8.5 percent of l secular non-profit programs, but only 4.3 percent of faith-based rural programs.