Christianity and Homelessness [Research Stories]

28 Aug

–This post is written by UHP student Hunter Scott, who received a SURE Award for sociological research.

Over the summer, I interviewed ten men and one woman who considered themselves to be experiencing homelessness, and who also self-identified as Christian. I was interested in how the two usually separately studied experiences of extreme poverty and faith interacted.  Limited previous work in the field of Sociology (my major) had shown that homeless individuals often kept a strong private faith, which they utilized as a tool of resilience and inspiration to overcome addictions, unemployment, and an education. However, those studies also showed that they avoided organized religion and congregations, fearing shame from the members of their churches due to their housing status. I hypothesized that a Christian faith would lead someone experiencing homelessness to develop a structural view of their own position in society. Then, they might naturally begin to utilize their faith to understand the inequalities and contradictions inherent in the housing, education, employment, and law enforcement systems we live with, and even draw inspiration to fight back through advocacy and fellowship.  This I drew from the Black Liberation Theology of James H. Cone and the Latin American Liberation Theology of Gustavo Guitierrez.

After I received the SURE award, I purchased a professional quality Olympus recorder. I used the rest of the money for $25 dollar stipends for the participants, which I hoped would encourage more participants using the “snowball” effect of  qualitative research, and would foster a greater sense of trust.

Now that it’s the end of the summer, I can look back on the project and count eleven 25 minute to 2 hour interviews. I also gained a valuable learning experience of how to run a small scale qualitative research study with human participants, and a professional quality recorder that I will probably use for much of my future in Sociology.

My hypothesis also changed. While I still need to transcribe the interviews and code the data, initial findings show that the people I interviewed (a small sample size, to be sure) definitely used their faith as a source of resiliency, but also looked at their position in society as the result of their own sin. They saw Jesus/Christianity as a moral guide, rather than a liberator. Several other smaller themes also emerged, which I will investigate further. 

This project will most likely turn in to my thesis, though I have many more secondary documents to read before I can narrow down my research to a smaller topic. I also plan on doing more interviews, if I can get another grant. However, thanks to the SURE grant, I have gotten a head start on my thesis

3 Responses to “Christianity and Homelessness [Research Stories]”

  1. Rebekah Johnson August 28, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    You should check out Three Strands! It’s a church that meets at 5 on Sundays in the United Church on campus. We have a large homeless population that is part of our church congregation! Maybe a good place for more research!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Study Your Passion, Get $500 To Do It [SURE Award] « theUHP Blog - September 24, 2012

    […] learn about Climate Change for their class project, figure out childhood speech patterns, or study Christianity and homelessness.  Others — like Jonathan Robinson – combined the money to help him get to a conference in […]

  2. Study Your Passion, Get $500 To Do It [Spring 2013 SURE Award] « theUHP Blog - December 5, 2012

    […] learn about Climate Change for their class project, figure out childhood speech patterns, or study Christianity and homelessness.  Others — like Jonathan Robinson – combined the money to help him get to a conference in […]

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