EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – Extract
Couch surfing is increasingly being recognised as a form of homelessness in Australia. It is a particularly complex issue for young people (aged under 25) in outer urban areas, who face additional challenges due to lack of infrastructure, support and services.
Little is known about the legal challenges these young people face due to, or because of, couch surfing. Even less is known about the experiences and challenges of the ‘couch providers’ – individuals and families who provide a place to stay for these young people.
This research sought to fill this gap in knowledge,by looking into the experiences of young people who are couch surfing and the experiences of couch providers – seeking to identify the legal, policy and service gaps for these groups and provide a way forward in addressing these issues.
To this end, a literature review was undertaken to find out what is already known about couch surfing in Australia. Sixty-two case studies from the WestJustice Couch Surfing Clinic were analysed and 30 professionals that work with young couch surfers were consulted.
The research revealed that it was a combination of structural, legal and policy issues which led to, or exacerbated, the vulnerability of young couch surfers. It also revealed a lack of community service options for couch surfers and couch providers.
Young couch surfers are falling through the gaps – not yet considered adults, but not given the same level of protection as children, these young people are forced to couch surf to avoid violence at home and family conflict. While it was out of the scope of this project to critique the Victorian Out-of-Home Care and Child Protections systems, there were some challenges identified in protecting young people through these systems. The preference young people (and couch providers) had for their situations to remain ‘out of the system’ was indicative of a lack of trust in how their situations would be handled. Young couch surfers’ lack of identity as being homeless or victims of family violence was mirrored in the lack of recognition in the systems that were intended to support them.
SOURCE: Moore, Shorna. “Couch Surfing Limbo: .” Westjustice, August 2017 [Accurate at November 2017]
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia