Based on eight years of hands-on experience and more than 300 interviews, Street Saints is both a book of motivational stories about unsung heroes and a sociological study of the “faith factor,” documenting faith-based programs that are treating social maladies in America. This book takes readers on a tour of communities and institutions in America where faith-based initiatives are making a difference. It offers inspiration, role models, and guidelines for people who would like to give back to their own communities.
Section 1 introduces street saints, people who are willing to go where there is pain and suffering and be a presence of healing with love. They are people of faith who are solving problems—such as a woman who has reclaimed a city block from drug dealers and a pastor who walks into gang confrontations to defuse them. Although of diverse races, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds, they are alike in their motivation to transform individuals.
Section 2 offers a tour of programs with an examination of what works and why. Examples include: prison rehabilitation programs; a program that cares for abused toddlers; one that mobilizes thousands of mentors for at-risk children by pairing a church with an elementary school; drug treatment and welfare-to-work programs that move people into self-sufficiency; and programs that help mentally and physically handicapped people support themselves with micro-enterprises.
Section 3 focuses on three cities—Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Fresno—where people of faith are mobilizing resources to transform entire communities. Section 4 presents the historical framework that puts social entrepreneurship into a broader vision of the soul of America. An appendix provides contact information for those who want to emulate the examples provided in the book.
Barbara J. Elliott is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and a philanthropic advisor with the Legacy Group. She is the founder of the Center for Renewal, which serves the leaders of faith-based groups. President George W. Bush gave her an award for Human Rights in 2001, honoring her work with refugees and the poor. She is the author of Candles Behind the Wall:Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution that Shattered Communism, and scores of articles on civic renewal. Barbara Elliott lives in Houston, Texas, and teaches for the Catherine of Siena Institute.