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Religion and Homelessness

Faith and spirituality is one of the powerful intrapersonal sources of strength and support for fighting against poverty, oppression and discrimination (Washington et al., 2009). Homeless populations are a vulnerable population experiencing a higher prevalence of mental and physical health problems as well as victimization and increased mortality rates. Spirituality plays a role in their emotional and mental capacity to handle challenges they face and practice health-promoting behaviors.

The church provides the homeless not only benefits such as shelter, transportation, free food and financial support, but also, more importantly, spiritual and religious support and guidance. Research has shown that spirituality is positively correlated with measures of well being, which then correlate positively with self-rated health status (Runquist & Reed, 2007). Also, social capital resulting from spirituality or religion increases the resource base of the homeless, enabling them to cope with their situation in healthier ways (Irwin et al., 2008).

church photo2 1779Also, research has indicated the positive effect of spiritual resources for homeless women. For example, Hurlbut and Ditmyer (2016) found in their research that spirituality such as belief in god or a higher power, distinction between religion and spirituality, belief that there is a plan for their lives, spirituality providing guidance for what is right/wrong, and belief that their lives will improve positively affected the lives of homeless women. Others found that the homeless experienced the presence of hope, motivation, human dignity, as well as efforts to leave homelessness (Gash et al., 2014). The identity and beliefs developed in church, affiliation and membership, involvement and practices, together with the benefits provided by the church have proved to be promising strategies to buffer stress, facilitate coping, and sustain motivation for the homeless women. All these better prepared them to meet the demands of homelessness, challenges of transition, and recovery from the multiple traumas resulting from being homeless (Washington et al., 2009).

These findings provide important information for the health practitioners, clinicians, religious entities, non-profit organizations, and policy makers in their efforts to develop interventions in order to support the homeless using spirituality practices.



Gash J., Moxley, D. P. & Calligan H. F.(2014). The relationship between spiritual resources and life attitudes of African American homeless women. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 35(4):238-250

Hurlbut, J. & Ditmyer, M. (2016). Defining the meaning of spirituality through a qualitative case study of sheltered homeless women. Nursing for Women’s Health, 20(1): 52

Irwin, Jay, Mark LaGory, Ferris Ritchey, and Kevin Fitzpatrick (2008). Social assets and mental distress among the homeless: exploring the roles of social support and other forms of social capital on depression. Social Science and Medicine, 67: 1935-1943.

Runquist, Jennifer J., and Pamela G. Reed (2007). Self-transcendence and well-being in homeless adults. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 25:5-13.

Washington O., Moxle, D.P., Garriott, L., Weinberger, J.P., (2009). Five dimensions of faith and spiritually of older African American women transitioning out of homelessness. Journal of Religion and Health, 48: 431

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