Street Soccer Scotland, who commissioned research into Scots’ attitudes to homelessness, found 41 per cent - equating to some three million people - say they are “fearful” of stopping to speak to rough sleepers.
The research shows younger people (aged 16-to-24) are least likely to stop and only a quarter say they would do so.
The study showed 48 per cent of people in the age group were most likely to say they are afraid of speaking to rough sleepers
Older age groups were less likely to be anxious about speaking to rough sleepers, with 38 per cent of 55-to-64-year-olds and 43 per cent of those aged over 65 being afraid.
David Duke, founder and chief executive of Street Soccer Scotland, who was homeless for three years, said: “Having experienced homelessness I know what it’s like to 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.
“Instead of sympathy, they’re feeling fear and we have to ask why and how we can change their perceptions.”
It is estimated that each year around 5,000 people are forced to sleep rough on Scotland’s streets.
Last year, 9,187 homelessness applications were received from people aged 16-to-24.
Mr Duke, who also sits on the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group set up by the Scottish Government, 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.”