Highlighting the Hidden form of Homelessness
05 Apr 2018
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For many people “couch surfing” makes you think of a cheap form of accommodation when travelling. However, in 2012, 9 out of 10 of Australia’s 34,000 homeless young people were couch surfing because they had nowhere else to stay, nowhere to call home.
At the time, couch surfing was difficult to identify in homelessness data. Data collection didn’t distinguish between a person who is couch surfing and a person who is visiting friends or family on census night.
So we set out to change the conversation with two events on World Homelessness Day, 10th October 2012.
A series of pre-loved couches were installed in Adelaide’s Rundle Mall and Victoria Square, along with Melbourne’s Federation Square. To give young people a voice in the Couch Day 2012 conversation, past and present HYPA clients told their stories of couch surfing experiences – stories that could be listed to on headphones whilst sitting on the installed couches as well as told via social, radio and print media.
Passers-by at Couch Day 2012 stopped, sat on the couches, had a chat with HYPA employees in Rundle Mall and Melbourne City Mission employees in Federation Square, heard of the challenges young people face when they do not have fixed, stable accommodation and listened to stories direct from young people whilst enjoying a free Couch Day 2012 coffee.
Significantly, after the events, the Australian Bureau of Statistics amended its definition of homelessness to include couch surfing. The change was the culmination of years of sustained collaboration between government and the homelessness sector around Australia and was an important step to give voice and prominence to this ‘hidden’ form of homelessness.