My research project seeks to understand how the presentation of homelessness in the United States impacts the ability to design and deliver social services to this vulnerable population. Existing scholarship on this topic addresses how media presents homelessness in a negative manner. This research is unique in that it seeks to explore the service delivery implications linked to those stigmatizing images. I adopt a sociological perspective in my project to address the societal conception of homelessness through the proxy of media. In addition to a comprehensive literature review, my project utilizes two qualitative content analysis methods: an analysis of twenty-five films featuring homelessness and thirteen in-depth interviews with social workers employed at a large research medical center. This investigation suggests that the experience of homelessness is cast as a personal problem opposed to a structural issue leading to a lack of public empathy towards the undomiciled. The public belief that homeless individuals are personally responsible for their condition stems from capitalist values found in the American culture. Capitalism evokes a public perception of equal economic opportunity and therefore homelessness results in societal apathy and/or diminished empathy. In turn these tenets negatively impact public interest in developing effective social services to the undomiciled.


Fisher, Lisa


Sociology and Anthropology


homelessness, media, stigmatization, capitalism, public policy

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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