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

03/19/2002

In addition to asking what types of clients they serve, NSHAPC asked program administrators whether their programs focused on one or more special population groups, such as children, veterans, or HIV patients.16  Table 5 lists the share of faith-based non-profits, secular non-profits, and government run programs that focus on each specific population group.  Figure 4 also displays the same information graphically.

Table 5:
Do NSHAPC Programs Have a Special Focus?

(Share of programs with any type of special focus)

  All Programs Faith-Based Non-Profit Secular Non-Profit Government
All Program Types 15,350 of 36,493 2,753 of 12,526 9,998 of 18,643 2,598 of 5,323
42.1% 22.0% 53.6% 48.8%
  Housing 53.5 40.7 62.4 38.3
    Emergency Shelter 59.5 39.0 69.4 50.1
    Transitional Shelter 63.7 60.4 68.0 47.8
    Permanent Housing 54.7 44.4 61.9 45.5
    Distribute Vouchers 26.0 11.0 37.8 16.8
    Housing For Vouchers 45.4 47.0 49.0 33.9
  Food 19.9 11.6 31.6 21.4
    Soup Kitchen/Meal Distribution 28.4 18.9 48.1 23.3
    Food Pantry 15.4 7.8 24.6 20.9
    Mobile Food 49.3 25.8 63.5 100.0
  Health 74.6 54.9 77.7 74.2
    Physical Health Care 48.7 7.5 60.1 47.0
    Mental Health 83.5 . 80.9 85.1
    Alcohol or Drug 87.0 80.3 84.1 95.1
    HIV/AIDS 83.6 . 80.7 90.0
  Other 45.3 19.1 53.7 53.0
    Outreach 52.0 25.2 53.0 72.1
    Drop-In Center 46.8 28.0 49.1 92.2
    Financial/Housing Assist. 39.9 2.3 75.6 30.8
    Other 35.0 14.5 48.6 41.0
 

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


Figure 4:
Percentage of Programs with a Special Focus

Figure 4: Percentage of Programs with a Special FocusFaith-based programs are much less likely than secular non-profits or government programs to have a special focus.

From Figure 4 it is clear that faith-based programs are significantly less likely to have a special focus than are secular non-profits or government programs.  Only 22 percent of all faith-based programs report having a special focus, compared to 54 percent of secular non-profits and 49 percent of government programs.  The percentage of faith-based programs with a special focus is especially low among food programs: only 12 percent of these programs have any special focus compared to 32 percent of secular non-profit and 21 percent of government-run food programs.  Faith-based food programs located in central cities are slightly more likely to specialize, but the percentage of programs that do so (15 percent) is still much smaller than that of secular programs (35 percent) and government programs (34 percent).  These results reflect the low rates of specialization among food programs, the type of program most often run by faith-based agencies.

Faith-based housing programs located in central cities are much more likely than those in other areas to have a special focus.

Housing and health programs are much more likely to specialize, no matter what type of agency sponsors them.  Forty-one percent of faith-based housing programs have a special focus, including 60 percent of transitional housing programs.  These percentages are still lower than those for secular non-profit housing programs (62 percent of all housing and 68 percent of transitional housing programs have a special focus), but they are higher than the corresponding percentage of government housing programs with a special focus (38 percent of all housing and 48 percent of transitional programs).  Faith-based housing programs located in central cities are significantly more likely to specialize than those in suburban or rural areas.  Among health programs, about 55 percent of faith-based programs have a special focus, compared to 78 percent of secular non-profit and 74 percent of government health programs.  There are too few faith-based health programs to examine these results by urban status or region of the country.  Among programs in the “other” category, only 19 percent of faith-based programs have a special focus, compared to 54 percent of secular non-profits and 53 percent of government programs.  These differences remain when comparing programs in central cities, suburban, and rural areas, and in all regions of the country.

In general, these results indicate that faith-based programs of all types are less likely to have a special focus than those run by secular non-profits.  This is especially true of faith-based food programs, which very rarely report having a special focus.  These findings fit our characterization of faith-based programs as programs that provide a basic set of services to a diverse group of clients.  They are less likely to specialize on one or more groups of clients (families, youth, etc.) or on one or more special needs (victims of domestic violence, HIV positive, etc.).  Instead, faith-based programs seem to be more general providers of basic assistance to many types of people, including many poor people who may not be literally homeless.

Another question of interest is: What special focus do homeless assistance programs tend to have?  The answer to this question was gleaned from two sources: reports about the primary mission of the program as well as any special populations the program had as a focus.  This information was only developed for “core” homeless assistance programs with relatively large sample sizes, namely emergency shelters, transitional and permanent housing programs, and soup kitchens.  Table 6 lists the shares of faith-based, secular non-profit, and government organizations that report an overall program focus.

Table 6:
What Special Focus Do NSHAPC Programs Have?

  Number of Programs Faith-Based Non-Profit Secular Non-Profit Government
Emergency Shelter with 5,320 (100%) 1,520 (100%) 3,480 (100%) 320 (100%)
  No specialization 40.6 63.2 30.4 44.6
  Mental health (MH) focus 3.7 2.5 4.1 5.2
  Chemical dependency (CD) focus 8.6 15.5 5.3 12.6
  MH/CD focus 1.4 2.7 0.9 1.0
  HIV/AIDS focus 1.4 1.8 1.3 0.3
  Domestic violence (DV) focus 30.3 5.2 42.1 20.1
  Youth focus 8.3 1.7 11.3 6.8
  Family focus 5.6 7.4 4.5 9.3
Transitional Shelter with 4,149 (100%) 1,181 (100%) 2,535 (100%) 433 (100%)
  No specialization 43.4 54.8 35.6 57.6
  Mental health (MH) focus 8.3 3.5 9.6 14.2
  Chemical dependency (CD) focus 14.4 16.6 15.2 4.2
  MH/CD focus 5.2 2.9 6.3 5.2
  HIV/AIDS focus 3.1 1.2 4.2 1.7
  Domestic violence (DV) focus 14.0 7.7 18.2 6.6
  Youth focus 4.4 5.6 4.6 0.2
  Family focus 7.1 7.6 6.3 10.2
Permanent Housing with 1,719 (100%) 205 (100%) 980 (100%) 534 (100%)
  No specialization 63.6 61.6 52.8 84.2
  Mental health (MH) focus 15.7 8.8 22.1 6.6
  Chemical dependency (CD) focus 5.2 11.0 5.2 2.9
  MH/CD focus 5.8 5.6 7.8 2.2
  HIV/AIDS focus 9.8 13.0 12.1 4.2
Soup Kitchen with 3,284 (100%) 2,131 (100%) 1,057 (100%) .
  No specialization 83.2 84.9 79.4 .
  Mental health (MH) focus 6.1 4.4 9.8 .
  Chemical dependency (CD) focus 6.7 7.6 5.2 .
  Family focus 2.4 2.9 1.6 .
  HIV/AIDS focus 1.5 0.2 4.0 .

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


The most common focus among emergency shelters is domestic violence.

The most common focus of all emergency shelter programs is domestic violence, with 30 percent of all programs reporting victims of domestic violence as a primary focus.  Only 5 percent of faith-based programs have this focus, however, compared to 42 percent of secular non-profit and 20 percent of government emergency shelters.  The most common focus among faith-based emergency shelters is chemical dependency, reported by 16 percent of such programs.  Outside of central cities, faith-based emergency shelters focus on serving families more often than do similar programs within central cities.  These figures indicate a major difference in the focus of emergency shelters operated by secular non-profits and faith-based non-profits.  Whereas a substantial proportion of secular and government programs run shelters specifically for victims of domestic violence, faith-based shelters are much less likely to have any special focus, and only a small percentage are focused on domestic violence.

Among transitional housing programs, the most common focus of faith-based non-profits is again chemical dependency (17 percent report this), but an almost equal share (15 percent) of secular non-profits have this as a focus of their transitional housing programs.  Again, in suburban and urban fringe areas, faith-based transitional housing programs are more likely to focus on families or youth than do similar central city programs.17 Domestic violence is the most common focus among secular non-profit transitional housing programs (15 percent), while mental health is most common among government programs (14 percent).  For permanent housing programs, the most common focus of faith-based programs is HIV/AIDS followed by chemical dependency, while secular non-profits focus are more likely to focus on mental health (22 percent have this focus).

The vast majority of soup kitchens have no special focus.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of soup kitchens have no special focus.  Among those that do, the most common focus is mental health or chemical dependency.  Eight percent of faith-based soup kitchens focus on chemical dependency and 4 percent focus on mental health, compared to 5 percent of secular non-profits that focus on chemical dependency and 10 percent on mental health.  There are not enough government-run soup kitchens to include in the analysis.

These figures indicate that there are few common missions or population groups targeted by a large percentage of transitional and permanent housing programs.  Those that do specialize tend to focus on domestic violence, chemical dependency, or mental health.  Among emergency shelter programs, however, a substantial proportion of secular non-profits, which run the majority of these programs, focus on domestic violence victims.  This focus is not shared by faith-based emergency shelters, which are much less likely to have any special focus.


16.  A program’s special focus was determined based on responses to questions about its primary population focus (30 groups were asked about) and the service location’s primary mission.  If answers to either of these indicated a focus, the program was classified according to that focus.  Classification rules included: any combination that included domestic violence was classified as having a domestic violence focus; any combination that included HIV/AIDS was classified as having an HIV/AIDS focus; and any combination that included youth was classified as having a youth focus.

17.  In rural areas, there are too few faith-based transitional and permanent housing programs to be included in the analysis.