Dr. Vincent Berardi
Homelessness is a growing issue in California, with residents consistently expressing concern and voting to dedicate funds to address the problem. Despite the abundance of public support for addressing this issue, California has more than half of all unsheltered people in the country, indicating a potential disconnect between the public’s desire to help and their knowledge of how to do so. To address this possibility, we employed a survey designed to quantify the public’s understanding of the homeless population, the stigma of homelessness and mental illness, and how misperceptions may lead to suboptimal homeless policy. This approach will determine if certain misperceptions are associated with resistance to effective policy solutions. This will serve as a roadmap for the public outreach required in order to generate support for more effective solutions to the homelessness problem. With a sample of undergraduate students (n=77), this presentation will compare the results of the public’s perceptions of the homeless to known ground-truth values. Regression analysis was used to examine the relationship between the accuracy of perceptions about homeless demographics and the levels of support for various treatment solutions. We compared the means of our undergraduate participants to the means of a national sample from a recent study to investigate differences in views of homeless and support for certain policies. Our findings indicate a more liberal attitude towards homeless from undergraduate students as opposed to the general population, but a misunderstanding of the causes of homelessness as well as a stigma associated with both homeless and mental illness. Our results also reflect a need for interventions to correct misperceptions and encourage support for beneficial policies.
Srivastava, Sophie and Berardi, Vincent, "Perceptions of Homelessness and Mental Illness" (2021). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 447.