Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Social (Inequality and Social Justice Option)

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Daisy Rooks

Commitee Members

Kathy Kuipers, Tobin Miller Shearer


homeless, outreach, services, faith-based, secular, street


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Inequality and Stratification | Rural Sociology


Many organizations strive to provide resources for individuals experiencing homelessness both in and outside of shelters. Studies analyzing the effects of religiosity on the practices of homeless shelters show that both faith-based and secular shelters generally offer a variety of services, from the accommodative, such as food and shelter, to the restorative, like housing, substance-use rehabilitation, and spiritual transformation (Snow and Anderson 1993). Although both types of shelters may require clients to participate in the latter to access the former, faith-based shelters often show a belief-based rigidity, with many requiring prayer, sermon attendance, or a proclamation of faith to access meals or lodging (Mulder 2004; Sager 2011). In contrast, very little data exist regarding religious influence on outreach services for individuals living outside the shelter system. Many individuals experiencing homelessness do not, or cannot, access shelter services for a variety of reasons. Some shelters or other organizations use homeless outreach teams to access people living outside of the shelter system. Using qualitative participant observation, I examined the differences in services, approaches, and goals between a faith-based and a secular homeless outreach team. I interviewed staff members and volunteers to reveal the connection between policy and practice. Method triangulation between participant observation, interviews, and policy content analysis allowed me to better understand how outreach teams interpret the organizations’ missions in the field. I found accommodative services provided by both organizations to be very similar, but the restorative services differed in type and focus. Although neither team required clients to participate in restorative services to access accommodative ones, the faith-based group often gave more time and resources to clients who behaved in a deferential manner. Conversely, the secular group gave more time and resources to clients experiencing varying levels of vulnerability. Both teams also interpreted the root of community stigma differently, leading them to assign the responsibility of ending stigma to different groups of people. This research contributes to a gap in research on differences between faith-based and secular homeless outreach approaches.



© Copyright 2020 Larissa K. Fitzpatrick