September 26, 2012
They’ve been called the hidden homeless.
In WA alone, there are an estimated 5000 young people without a stable place to call home who may be one night away from living on the streets of Perth.
Many of these ‘hidden homeless’ are ‘couch surfers’ who stay with friends or family in temporary arrangements.
Francis Lynch, Chief Executive of West Perth’s Ruah Community Services, said there were many reasons people became homeless and that it was near impossible to estimate how many people were couch surfing.
Mr Lynch said that some people who couch surf may find themselves thinking they owed their hosts a favour in return for the accommodation and sometimes this could lead people into dangerous situations.
The favour may be a friend to go out and socialise with, sexual favours, or an expectation for assistance with drug dealing or other crimes.
Some couch surfers may be staying with people they have just met in a house full of other people they’ve never seen before.
“People have to decide whether this is preferable to being on the street,” Mr Lynch said.
He said that anyone who finds themselves thinking about leaving home, or facing homelessness should talk to someone.
He said that friends, family, schools, chaplains and youth services are all there to help.
Niall Rhatigan, manager of the Passages Resource Centre in Northbridge, says there is growing awareness of young people who couch surf and may be “a night away from being on the streets of Perth.”
“Evidence would suggest that many young people initially couch surf close to home or with friends and the escalation of this is when that placement breaks down and they become primary homeless,” Mr Rhatigan said.
The Homelessness Bill released this year by the Australian Government says that as a method to reduce homelessness the government will increase options for appropriate accommodation and the supply of affordable housing.
Narelle Clay, Chairperson of Homelessness Australia says that this is “a step in the right direction but it falls short of expectations”.
There are many youth connection services in Perth to help people rebuild their lives and find a permanent home.