New study to examine homelessness

A new study by researchers from New Zealand and Canada is to examine the portrayal of homeless people in the media.

Journalists and homeless people would contribute to the study which would compare media reports of homelessness in the two Commonwealth countries.

The study would also look at the extent to which the media was able to convey the complexities of homeless people's lives and circumstances.

Massey School of Psychology Professor Kerry Chamberlain said the study would target national and provincial newspaper coverage.

"Homelessness is a pressing social concern involving social marginalisation and strained relationships between homeless and housed people," he said.

Homeless people got sicker and died faster than the generally population through lack of medical treatment, insecurity and cultural dislocation, he said.

They were also more likely to commit suicide and be fatally assaulted.

Mr Chamberlain's Canadian counterpart Associate Professor Barbara Schneider from the University of Calgary said media tended to present homeless people as innocent victims of bad luck or people who have made bad choices.

Both representations were simplistic and reinforced a split between the homeless and society at large, she said.

"Media stories often fail to link homelessness with lack of employment, affordable housing or access to health care, and this serves to perpetuate the status quo whereby homelessness is accepted as endemic to society and a fact of life."

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