one else, to bring as much love as we can to these people, because that is how we serve God. That is what we are called to do."
The sense of being personally called to serve is a distinguishing characteristic of mainstream providers. Many of them express the belief that it is not their place to tell others how to live their lives. "That would be too judgmental," asserts Sister Mary Rose. Instead, the goal is to share oneself with those who need help, particularly the poorest of the community. The agencies provide environments where members of the congregation may experience personal religious growth in the service of God. They are places where staff and volunteers may practice a Christian ministry. Marie, a staff member of a day shelter stated, "My job is not just to help meet the needs of the homeless, but to help provide an experience for volunteers who want to serve God. We [the staff] want to help the community make contact with the homeless so they can have a chance to experience true ministry."
Homeless relief agencies thus represent an opportunity for mainstream religious organizations to volunteer community service. One of the day shelters alone has volunteers representing over twenty denominations. Meeting the needs of the volunteers is a major concern of these agencies. Service to others is thought to be psychologically therapeutic, as well as morally uplifting. As Marie put it: "our volunteers have as critical a problem as the clients. This is really a challenge--I mean our volunteers, like 20-30 percent, are in recovery programs of one kind or other. What better place to help work on your problems than helping others work on theirs?" In contrast to the fundamentalist agencies, then, the goal of mainstream providers is less to change the homeless than to change themselves.
Because there is a gap between public, governmental supports and private, religion-based organizations, partnerships between the public and private sectors should be encouraged. Coordination of services is a frequent suggestion, one given so continually that it has become a cliché. In fact, little has been done to bring public and private agencies together.
In the city of Albuquerque, no one has yet asked how religious agencies might be willing to forge alliances with the public sector. Some mainstream providers and contacts in city government have expressed a willingness to begin a dialogue over the matter. Even some fundamentalists would consider working with government agencies in certain defined roles. Some Albuquerque city officials in the Community Services Department believe that there are ways to get around the inherent difficulties in church/state coordination, in order to forge alliances. For example, religious agencies would have to agree that religious practice will not be a requirement for service. On the other hand, federal regulations may make participation by some religious organizations difficult. Regardless, all levels of government should reexamine their requirements in the area of church/state partnerships to see if adjustments can be made that would foster greater interaction and