More than 4,500 young people face homelessness in Queensland every night and according to Brisbane Youth Service (BYS) a common form of homelessness is couch surfing.
BYS wants to tackle this hidden form of homelessness with a new Couch Surfing Hotline, and through it, to offer vital assistance to Brisbane’s vulnerable young people and their families.
CEO of BYS, Annemaree Callander, said that young people experiencing homelessness often have multiple, complex and intersecting support needs, and experiences of homelessness can be attributed to a range of issues. She said that family breakdown and family violence are the leading causes of homelessness (including couch surfing) for young people.
In 2018-19, young people who accessed support from BYS reported high levels of violence in their lives, with 70 per cent reporting violence in their family home. Ms Callander said that LGBTIQ+ young people face disproportionately high rates of family breakdown and subsequently experience higher rates of homelessness.
Ms Callander added that young people who are couch surfing have also been found to have poorer engagement with support services and lower levels of family support.
“A couch is not a home. Couch surfing means staying somewhere temporarily because you have no safe or stable place to live,” Ms Callander said.
Ms Callander said that young couch surfers are emerging as a mental health priority group with higher rates of both suicide risk and self-harming behaviour.
Shortage of support services
There is a chronic shortage of support services as well as safe and suitable housing for vulnerable young people, and across Australia demand for affordable housing and homelessness services outstrips the accessibility and availability of quality programs and support services, Ms Callander told The Westender.
Couch Surfing Hotline
BYS’s new Couch Surfing Hotline aims help improve the safety and wellbeing of young couch surfers and assist them to access support and facilitate follow-up and face-to-face visits.
Families and carers who are concerned about young couch surfers can also access information and support via the Hotline, as well as those community members who are providing temporary ‘couch accommodation’ to young people. Learnings from the trial will help shape services into the future.
The Couch Surfing Hotline was officially launched on Wednesday the 9th of October.
The Hotline will be open Monday to Friday between 10am-2pm, and Wednesday 1pm – 4pm with a message service and call-back service available.
Call or text 0402 526 965.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The evaluated trial of the Couch Surfing Hotline was funded by the Queensland Government’s Mental Health Commission.
— BrisbaneYouthService (@BrisYthService) October 8, 2019