A majority of people in Scotland never speak to the homeless – with nearly half saying it is because they are “fearful” of approaching them.
According to charity Street Soccer Scotland, some 41% of people said they would not stop for a chat with someone sleeping rough over safety fears.
The research also found that two thirds of Scots never stop to speak to the homeless, while younger people aged 16 to 24 were the least likely to stop and talk.
Older age groups were less likely to be worried about speaking to rough sleepers, according to the charity.
David Duke, founder and chief executive of Street Soccer Scotland, who was himself homeless for three years, said: “Having experienced homelessness I know what it’s like to spend your days alone, with no-one to speak to.
“I also know the difference that having someone to talk to can make when you’ve lost all hope.
“I’m really shocked at the number of people who say they don’t stop to speak to people who are homeless, and especially by the number who say they’re afraid to.”
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The charity’s research found that some 5,000 people are forced to sleep rough in Scotland every year.
Mr Duke, who sits on the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, added: “Today in Scotland, great strides are being made to eradicate homelessness with progressive laws and a willing government.
“However, unfortunately some things have stayed exactly the same.
“The lack of dignity afforded to people experiencing homelessness, the prejudice and stigma that comes with what is the worst time of your life, is holding our society back. We need to do more to change that.”