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Religion and Recovery Among Individuals Experiencing Homelessness


Faith-based organizations provide essential recovery services to individuals experiencing homelessness. Research suggests that religion and spirituality aid recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, although less is known about these factors in homeless populations. This study used qualitative interviews to explore the role of religion in recovery from addiction in a sample of 14 adults with a history of homelessness. Analysis of emergent themes revealed that religion provided participants with a range of personal and social benefits, many which addressed personal, social, and tangible losses and crises associated with substance use and homelessness. Understanding the specific benefits religion may provide during recovery can guide research and help providers improve programs for this vulnerable population.

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This research was supported by grants from the University of Puget Sound and the Department of Psychology. We gratefully acknowledge the staff and residents who made data collection possible at our research sites, and our research assistants Maloy Morgan and Evan Hamilton.


This study was funded by grants from the University of Puget Sound and its Department of Psychology.

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Correspondence to Carolyn Weisz.

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Kayla L. Lovett declares that she has no conflict of interest. Carolyn Weisz declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of University of Puget Sound IRB and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Interview Questions

  • To start off, please tell me a little bit about your substance use history and what led you to recovery.

  • Have you been in other recovery or treatment programs before?

  • How has your recovery experience been so far? What has been the nature of your treatment (has it been faith-based or non-faith-based)?

  • What are your beliefs concerning religion and how have those been impacted during recovery?

  • Describe your community. Who is involved? How often do you interact with members of your religious community and what is the nature of your relationship with others in the community?

  • What has been the most valuable part of your religious belief?

  • Has your idea of yourself changed throughout your recovery process? How has it changed?

  • Who has been your biggest influence or inspiration throughout your process of recovery?

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Lovett, K.L., Weisz, C. Religion and Recovery Among Individuals Experiencing Homelessness. J Relig Health 60, 3949–3966 (2021).

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  • Religion–spirituality
  • Substance use
  • Recovery
  • Homelessness
  • Qualitative research