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Public attitudes towards homelessness: wave one (April 2021)

The Crisis Framing Homelessness Project has commissioned a bi-annual online survey to track the UK public’s attitudes to homelessness over the next four years. The results are used to evaluate the progress of the project and provide a source of insight on public perceptions and framing homelessness for the homelessness sector.

The survey is carried out on behalf of Crisis by Consumer Insight. The results wave one are published here.

Key findings

  • Homelessness has high levels of salience and seriousness for the UK public, but other issues are gaining more traction. The vast majority of respondents agree homelessness is common (93%); a serious problem (95%); and important to reduce (95%). However, homelessness lags behind amongst the ‘causes’ people feel most passionate about; would support; and see as a priority for solving.
  • The view of ‘homelessness as rough sleeping’ remains present and strong. 38% of respondents agreed that ‘people are only really homeless if they are rough sleeping’ – a slight increase on July 2020. And amongst those who recall media coverage of homelessness, the figure is 44%, suggesting current media coverage is helping to embed this view.
  • Individualism dominates people’s understanding of the causes of homelessness, but structural causes are also present. An individualistic view of why homelessness happens – in particular drugs and alcohol use – still comes to fore in both unprompted and prompted responses to questions about the causes of homelessness. But there is also recognition of structural causes – including lack of jobs/ loss of employment, poverty, and lack of affordable housing.
  • While there remains a sense of fatalism around ending homelessness, there are greater levels of optimism: 29% of respondents agree ‘homelessness will always exist in our society no matter what we do’ – an increase on last year at 25%. However, 41% of people agree ‘there is a growing chance that homelessness can be ended for good,’ and 60% agree ‘if the government takes the right steps, we can end homelessness’.
  • When prompted with possible solutions, support is fairly evenly distributed across different actions and interventions. Long term housing and funding councils to prevent homelessness are most favoured.