reliance on the private sector to respond to the homeless people we see around us. With a prolonged economic downturn and fewer public dollars available for homeless services, demands on the private sector will become greater. This trend will have an impact on the homeless and on religious communities in every municipality. If conservative religious groups--the Christian fundamentalists--sponsor most agencies, then local communities may welcome the decline in government involvement. Delivery of basic services would then survive in an environment less interested in causes and solutions than in the immediacy of saving selected souls.
In Albuquerque, the majority of provider agencies are managed by Christian fundamentalists. These groups appear to be expanding both their role and their influence on homeless services. If this trend continues, then the range of alternative responses to the homeless would become increasingly limited, and service delivery would become more restricted to those individuals most amenable to evangelical calls for rehabilitation and "right living." Mainstream religious agencies, concerned with benefiting their own membership, appear oblivious to this movement. They are not alert to the fact that a significant downturn in public funding would jeopardize their efforts and diminish the scope of services they wish to promote. Fundamentalists, by avoiding public scrutiny, push for a bootstrap approach that classifies homeless persons according to their capacity to cooperate with a particular rehabilitation plan. They deal with those who are judged worthy of assistance and rationalize their rejection and abandonment of others. Moreover, the fundamentalists' lack of interest in deeper causes and broader solutions may doom community response to homelessness to simplistic reactions and discourage measures that promise to halt the rise in numbers of homeless persons.