MOST people are compassionate about the plight of the homeless and are willing to pay more taxes to help them, but there is wide disagreement over who should be responsible for them, researchers say. The results of a survey of 240 people in Buffalo, N.Y., and a nationwide poll of 1,084 people indicate that the public generally puts the blame for homelessness on society, rather than on the homeless themselves, said Dennis McDonell and Paul Toro of the State University of New York at Buffalo.
``In both the Buffalo and the national surveys, nearly 60 percent of the public was willing to pay more taxes to support targeted programs that attack the root causes of homelessness,'' Mr. Toro said in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.
When they were asked what they thought caused homelessness, three-quarters of respondents in both surveys named unemployment, family conflicts, and drug and alcohol problems, the poll said.
The researchers discovered that many in the survey had misconceptions about homelessness. Those polled estimated that only about a third of the homeless are white, when the actual number is about two-thirds, they said. In addition, they said, those surveyed thought about 40 percent of the homeless were drug abusers, when that is true of only 14 percent.