The roles of the law and the media
Why is the association of homelessness and crime so strong? There are two main factors.
First, many behaviours made necessary by homelessness are criminalised. Simply trying to survive puts people who are experiencing homelessness in direct contact with the criminal justice system.
In Victoria, for example, begging is a criminal offence. Other laws that unfairly target the homeless include indecent exposure laws, which result in homeless people being arrested for going to the toilet or washing themselves in public (because they lack the option to do so in private).
The second factor is the persistent linking of homelessness and crime in the media.
News stories proliferate in the tabloid media about aggressive beggars, foreign backpackers pretending to be homeless to make money and people who exploit their pets as they beg for donations.
Coverage of the homeless camp at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne during the 2017 Australian Open tennis tournament routinely described inhabitants as drug dealers, criminals and professional troublemakers.
Being homeless means being vulnerable it does not mean they are all criminals!