Attitude Shifts: A Qualitative Analysis of Students' Awareness and Reaction to the Homeless

Perceptions toward homelessness among 23 undergraduates were explored through individual, semi-structured interviews. Several higher-education institutions have incorporated non-traditional learning components to promote altruism and empathy among students toward the poor and homeless. We focused on one Midwestern university's experiential approach that had a "poverty-immersion" experience within a selected course. We explored how the poverty-immersion weekend altered undergraduates' perceptions of the poor and persons in homeless milieu. Students evidenced marked alterations in their understandings of the homeless: dispelling assumptions to consider individuals in light of personal and circumstantial situations that led to their states of homelessness, and the holistic nature of their needs. Students were challenged to reconsider the attitudes towards the homeless as expressed by those in the middle-class socioeconomic status.

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Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless