On Thursday, an independent Baylor University study revealed that faith-based organizations in the United States shoulder the majority of the work in combatting homelessness nationwide. It stands as an encouraging missive to the church and its affiliates to “not grow weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9).
The study was performed by Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, and was released Wednesday at the National Press Club. It examined homelessness in 11 sample cities and revealed that faith-based organizations not only provide the majority of emergency shelter beds in the country (at 58 percent), but are at the forefront of developing long-term solutions to the problem through intervention, recovery, job training, and addiction recovery services.
According to Dr. Byron Johnson, distinguished professor of Social Sciences and director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University and one of the co-authors of the study, “The data in this study sheds light on the largely overlooked, significant role of the multi-faith sector in addressing the homelessness challenge in urban and rural communities and doing so in innovative ways…This research is helpful because it reveals the mainly untold story of the socio-economic impact of faith-based organizations on the common good health and flourishing of whole communities.”
The impact generated by this assistance was estimated at a $9.42 in taxpayer savings for every $1 invested by the government. In the 11 cities studied during 2016, an estimated $119 million in tax savings was recognized after implementation of faith-based Residential Recovery and Job Readiness programs for homeless individuals.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Dr. Byron answered the question of why there seems to be a particular misunderstanding of and hostility toward the work of religious organizations in today’s age: “There’s plenty of people in the community who think their freedoms are under attack today and so there’s a sense in which people are even afraid to make a pro-family statement for fear that they might be called a bigot,” Byron remarked. “And I think there are these misconceptions about the faith community that they don’t play well with other groups. And I think our preliminary study shows that’s a myth. They are ready, but they are not going to give up their faith.”
This body of work illuminates how collaboration among faith-based groups, private industry, and government creates the best solutions to not only homeless but so many societal ills. We know the socio-economic impact of faith-based organizations cannot be ignored. Baylor’s study further proves that religious liberty and free exercise protections must be restored from their previously hobbled state under President Obama. This study once again underscores that it is not just the religious adherent that benefits from the free exercise of religion, it is the entire community.
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.