Graduate Project


Public Perception of Police Responses to Homelessness: Results from a Factorial Survey Public Deposited

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  • Visible homelessness is a complex and enduring issue that remains salient in policymaking and political realms. In response to homeless individuals living their lives in public spaces, many cities have enacted civility codes or laws that address quality of life concerns in an attempt to remove visible signs of homelessness and placate the business community and housed citizens. Homeless advocacy groups have raised concerns about the legality and constitutionality of these laws, regularly challenging them in court and winning. Additionally, public sentiment towards homeless populations has grown more sympathetic in recent years and there are signs that these punitive police responses may not enjoy the public support that governments believe they do. However, despite dwindling public support and concerns of legality, these punitive police responses to homelessness remain. This study aims to evaluate public opinion of how the police respond to visible homelessness and if public opinion is impacted by the race and background of homeless individuals. This research will utilize the Social Construction of Target Populations Framework coupled with multinomial logistic regression to analyze data from an opinion survey conducted in Portland, Oregon on appropriate responses of police officers to a notional homeless man committing various levels of offenses. Results from this paper will provide policy recommendations for policing strategies and local policy recommendations to improve homelessness policies. This research will aid in providing an alternative to punitive policing strategies and address the possibility of rethinking responses to homelessness.
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