Stereotypes and Public Stigma Against People Experiencing Homelessness

David Pilla, Fordham University


Homelessness creates tremendous hardship for millions of Americans, yet people experiencing homelessness (PEH) are a pervasively stigmatized social group. Evidence of persistent, negative views of PEH has been shown in decades of research and discriminatory laws, policies, and community efforts to minimize their housing options and public visibility. However, research has yet to establish what particular beliefs constitute stigma against PEH. This study aimed to identify stereotypes of PEH that contribute to the general public’s endorsement of discriminatory behaviors towards them (i.e. Discriminatory Intent). A national online survey (N = 421) of U.S. adults recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk examined the extent to which five stereotypes of PEH could explain variability in Discriminatory Intent. A multiple linear regression found that stereotypes of PEH as dangerous, dirty, and mentally ill or substance abusers (MISA), significantly predicted Discriminatory Intent after controlling for demographic and exposure to homelessness variables, whereas stereotypes of PEH as character defective and Black did not. Further, the dangerous stereotype partially mediated the relationship between the MISA stereotype and Discriminatory Intent, suggesting that some discriminate against PEH when they assume PEH are MISA, in part because they believe MISA are dangerous. These findings expand on existing knowledge of the psychological mechanisms that underlie stigma against PEH and can inform anti-stigma interventions and advocacy initiatives for PEH.

Subject Area

Counseling Psychology|American studies|Behavioral psychology

Recommended Citation

Pilla, David, "Stereotypes and Public Stigma Against People Experiencing Homelessness" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI30250171.