Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work and Social Research


While homelessness presented an opportunity to create a more comprehensive approach to poverty elimination nationwide, existing institutions skirted ownership, the American tradition of localism prevailed, and in the early 1980s homelessness services were developed by non-profit entrepreneurs quite separate from existing systems of health and social services. Within a decade, federal intervention began to suggest—and then require—that communities desirous of funding demonstrate planful collaboration, implement particular modalities of service, and achieve certain collective outcomes. Local groups had to create system of care, which required establishing common ground about compliance with federal directives concerning who should be served and how. This study examines how one largely rural community, South Central County, developed over three decades culturally syntonic methods to create a deeply integrated system out of a disconnected sprawl of homelessness services. This required negotiating the consequences of very different understandings of homelessness and what to do about it, understandings that often divided secular and faith-based providers and greatly complicated compliance with federal mandates. In the end, however, they “made it work.”