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Where’s the ‘Faith’ in FBOs? The evolving expression of faith in faith-based homelessness services Dr Sarah Johnsen.

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Presentation on theme: "Where’s the ‘Faith’ in FBOs? The evolving expression of faith in faith-based homelessness services Dr Sarah Johnsen."— Presentation transcript:

1 Where’s the ‘Faith’ in FBOs? The evolving expression of faith in faith-based homelessness services Dr Sarah Johnsen

2 What is an FBO? FBO: “derives inspiration and guidance for its activities from the teachings and principles of the faith or from a particular interpretation or school of thought within the faiths” (Clarke and Jennings, 2008, p.6) Faith may influence an organisation’s: 2 mission founding affiliation governance support target group practices environment programme content expected connection between religious content and outcomes

3 Methods 1.Review of literature and service databases 2.Interviews with representatives of central govt. and national umbrella organisations (n=5), and national FBd welfare providers (n=5) 3.Two case studies (London and Manchester), involving: interviews with homelessness service managers (n=30; 17 FBd and 8 secular organisations) interviews with frontline staff in these services (n=35, incl. 22 paid and 13 volunteer) interviews and focus groups with service users (n=73) interviews with other key informants representing LAs, umbrella bodies, places of worship etc. (n=7) 3

4 Evolution of Homelessness Services Majority of existing services emerged out of FBd initiatives Divergent developmental trajectories, esp. re extent of ‘professionalisation’ So, today: –‘Basic’ services (e.g. soup runs/kitchens, winter shelters) dominated by FBOs (with wide range of religious affiliations) –‘Specialist’ services (e.g. hostels, supported housing) provided by greater mix of FBd and secular agencies (these FBOs primarily Christian) As structure/type has evolved, so too has expression of faith... 4

5 Public Identity, Ethos & Staffing 5 Fluidity and ambiguity in public expression of (current or historical) faith identifies Strong similarities in ethos of faith-based and secular, agencies esp. re dignity and non-discrimination But, notable differences amongst FBOs re sharing faith: some overtly ‘evangelical’, others not Some FBOs required senior staff to practice (their) faith; very rarely requirement for frontline staff Almost all (FBd and secular) staffed by mix of people with and without faith and/or from a range of religious affiliations

6 Resourcing and Environment 6 No clear-cut differences re resourcing: both FBd and secular providers seek support from faith communities proportion of govt funding largely determined by service type some sources (e.g. lottery) avoided by (some) FBOs on ‘moral’ grounds ‘Environmental’ clues (e.g. building type, presence of religious images) re organisational affiliation... but can sometimes be misleading

7 Programme Content / Practices 7 Visibility/practice of faith in programmes subsided significantly in recent decades Participation in religious practices (e.g. prayer) optional in all but one (charitably funded) project Such requirements had been in place in several others in past, but discontinued due, primarily, to: (external) pressure from commissioning bodies; and (internal) wish to avoid appearing unwelcoming to people of other/no faith Opportunities for religious worship, teaching, pastoral care, counselling generally available in FBd projects; always optional

8 Service User Views 8 Many homeless people find it difficult to discern tangible difference between FBd and secular projects No obvious differences in the quality, or integrity, of ‘care’ provided by staff Some sought FBOs out, others avoided them; greater majority indifferent Virtually all felt that any wish to avoid talking about religion had been respected (i.e. no evidence of unwelcome proselytism) Preferences mostly defined by expectations re behaviour change (i.e. how ‘interventionist’ services are)

9 Conclusions The ‘F’ in FBO can be articulated (and/or suppressed) in a myriad of nuanced ways Nature/strength of faith influence rarely static, but evolve in response to coercive, mimetic and normative influences Faith ‘matters’ as is a key motivation in sector (in both FBd and secular services) and arguably ‘adds value’ by providing (optional) spiritual support But, given blurring of boundaries between FBd and secular we should guard against exaggerating differences between them

10 Conclusions Ultimately, its the perceived ‘integrity of care’ that matters to homeless people: FBd and secular equally equipped to deliver if sufficiently resourced/staffed Question of how care is most appropriately expressed complicated by interventionism debate Faith communities will be central to debates on this highly sensitive, and contentious, issue


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