Public attitudes towards homelessness: wave two (September 2021)

The Crisis Framing Homelessness Project has commissioned a twice-yearly online survey to track public attitudes to homelessness. The results allow us to evaluate progress of the project over a four-year period. They also provide a source of insight on public perceptions - and framing homelessness - for the sector. The survey is carried out on behalf of Crisis by Consumer Insight.

Changing public attitudes is a long-term process. We would not expect to see any immediate significant shifts as compared to the previous wave of data. The research can, however, give us an indication of how public attitudes may be moving. The results of wave two are published here.

Key findings 

  • Ending homelessness has grown slightly as a priority for the public – at a time when prioritisation of other causes has stayed flat. This was coupled with a slight increase in the importance respondents gave to reducing homelessness. The increase was particularly clear with those who recall media coverage of homelessness, with 84% agreeing that reducing homelessness was extremely or very important compared with 73% in the previous wave of research.
  • There has been an increase in people viewing ‘homelessness as rough sleeping’. 44% of respondents agreed with the statement, ‘people are only really homeless if they’re sleeping rough’- an increase of 6% since the first wave of data. For those who had seen media coverage of homelessness, agreement with this statement was especially high (50%).
  • Media coverage about homelessness is still dominated by rough sleeping - with 60% of respondents recalling media content focused on this form of homelessness. It is perhaps not surprising then that those who recall media coverage of homelessness are even more likely to equate homelessness with rough sleeping.
  • There has been some increased recognition that there are a variety of structural causes of homelessness – however individualism continues to dominate people’s understanding. Awareness of unemployment as a cause of homelessness has grown from 20% to 25%. Housing, mental health support, and finances were also cited more as causes of homelessness.
  • More than with other social causes, the public feel that the government is responsible for ending homelessness. Alongside this, a sense of personal responsibility to help people who are homeless has increased since the last wave of data. 42% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘I have a personal responsibility to help people who are homeless’ rising from 34% in our previous wave of data.
  • There has been increased belief in the need to take immediate action to end homelessness. 38% of respondents agreed that ‘taking immediate action is the best way to end homelessness’, compared with 31% in the previous wave of research. There was also a slight increase in optimism that we can eventually eradicate homelessness from our society.