Through the lens of 'faithness' : examining the role of faith based organisations in the Scottish homelessness sector
Jackson, Fiona Margaret
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Faith based organisations (FBOs) have made long-standing contributions to services for homeless people. This research sought to understand how FBOs working within the Scottish homelessness sector operationalised their faith and explore whether that had an impact on the relationships they formed with other agencies and ways in which users experienced services. Three main qualitative methods were used. Firstly, literature reviews were conducted to create a robust theoretical framework. Secondly, organisational profiles were created by extrapolating data from ‘grey literature’ to identify how organisations operationalised faith (or not). Thirdly, the main empirical research was conducted through key informant interviews and detailed qualitative case studies of three organisations, of which one was overtly faith-based, one had previously strong, but now less obvious, connections to faith, and one was not faith-based. The concept of ‘faithness’ was introduced and used as the main analytical lens to investigate how faith was operationalised (if at all) in organisational characteristics. An assessment of organisational ‘faithness’ revealed the full extent to which faith (and secular) influences were present in individual organisations (faith and non-faith based) as well as allowing comparisons between them. By identifying the presence (and absence) of faith in organisational characteristics, the study eliminated the need to reinvent a complex organisational typology found within other research on this subject. In a more general sense, the study found that stakeholders were unconcerned about the presence of FBOs in the sector where those organisations did not emphasise their faith or place religious conditions on service users, but were cautious about those perceived as evangelistic. Service users understood that religious beliefs underpinned the values of some organisations and staff and were accepting of (voluntary) religious observances where these were present, but organisational faith affiliation did not make a difference to their experiences (even where staff hoped it might).