I recently house-sat for a family and had the joy of looking after their furry friends during my stay. Word spread quickly and, before long, I found myself house sitting for a few more families around Sydney in the following months. It was quite fun!
When I proceeded to pack my suitcase for the third round of furry friend minding, I found myself pondering what it would be like to live out of a suitcase in someone else’s home for a different reason…homelessness.
I have friends who have couch surfed during their travels as a way of saving money, but there is also couch surfing of a different nature- where someone does not have a home to go back to. According to the Salvation Army, "Couch surfing is usually the start to the slippery slope of youth homelessness." Just because a young person has a roof over their head doesn’t mean that they have stability, safety or a secure place to live.
The reality is that on any given night in Australia, a staggering 44,000 Australians under the age of 24 are homeless. For many young people, couch surfing is what they end up doing to escape from family issues or other dysfunction but sleeping on a friend's couch is just the beginning of an uncertain future which can lead to disengagement from society and more serious circumstances.
I live in Freshwater, so I thought I would look into this a little bit more to find out what is going on in my community. I came across a survey of schoolchildren on the Northern Beaches which has identified pockets of vulnerable teenagers at risk of homelessness. Of 1,500 students quizzed, researchers from Swinburne University in Victoria found 44 were at risk of homelessness and a further 203 needed support for issues including depression and anxiety.
Justene Gordon, of homeless youth charity, The Burdekin Association, suggests that this is a snapshot of a larger problem on the peninsula. “We see children as young as 15 who are homeless. It is often a hidden problem because they are not sleeping rough on the streets. They tend to move from one friend’s house to another. But they are still homeless.”
I have to say that I wasn’t aware of this at all…but I guess that’s the point! It’s a hidden issue.