Couch surfing: A different type of roaming | News
HANNIBAL — Bouncing a baby in her lap, 21-year-old Jane looked across the table like a confident wife and mother.
Her five-month-old daughter smiled, peering through the fur hood of the ruffled pink coat she arrived wearing on one of the coldest days so far in January.
Less than a year ago, Jane, then pregnant, was unsure whether she could provide such accommodation for her baby. It’s because Jane was homeless.
(Jane is not her real name as she asked to remain anonymous.)
She’s experienced a kind of homelessness that’s different from what you would usually call “homelessness,” but it’s a situation that’s becoming more and more prevalent across the country, known as “couching.” surfing”.
These are people who do not have permanent accommodation; they bounce around night after night sleeping on the sofas of friends, family and sometimes anyone who will take them in for a night or more. They are also called homeless but “housed” people.
Brent Engel, head of public relations and communications at NECAC, said the number of people who are “couch surfing” is increasing, especially with rising inflation.
This often happens when a job is lost and the bills get so heavy they can’t keep paying the rent, or when a family structure changes due to a loss, divorce, or death. other reasons.
As they travel in search of places to sleep at night, Engel said many go to work and send their children to school during the day.
People who see them daily might not know they’re homeless, but Engel said, “They’re still just a couch away from being on the street.”
Jane lost her permanent home aged 19 after the death of her grandmother, with whom she had lived since she was around 14.
She was pregnant at the time and her living situation became dangerous when her father – who uses drugs – took over her grandmother’s house where she still lived.
“When my grandmother was gone is when everything went downhill,” she said. “It was very sudden and not a situation I ever thought I would find myself in.”
Not only was it a dangerous place for her, but Jane said she knew it was not a place she could bring home a baby. At the time, housing in her area was full, and because her name was on waiting lists, she had nowhere to go.
Dragging the luggage containing all her belongings and a growing inventory of baby supplies for her daughter who was soon on her way, Jane remembered it as exhausting.
“I was jumping from couch to couch,” she said. “I really didn’t know where to go in the evening and I wasn’t comfortable asking people if I could stay with them because I had never had to before. That’s a lot to ask. »
She soon found herself in a different state with another relative, but she wanted a place of her own. She knew that constantly moving around was not the life she wanted to provide for her child.
She returned to Missouri when she received a call that her name was next on the waiting list for housing through NECAC, and two weeks after being approved she brought her daughter back to the house in a place of their own.
Jane said she never necessarily thought of herself as homeless, but looking back she now sees that she was.
“It was the first time in my life that I didn’t have a coherent place to live. I never cared about it, but I look back and realize I was everywhere,” she said.
Deanna Nelson, NECAC’s property manager at Centerville Apartments, said many people list on their housing applications that they’re staying in friends’ garages or living in their cars.
“I see a lot of single moms who might already have a kid or two or might be pregnant,” she said.
Nelson mentioned that one obstacle with housing seekers who are homeless is keeping their contact details up to date, as many cannot afford to keep a phone.
Even with government phones, Nelson said they often get stolen with the constant trips and can’t get another one. This can often cause them to lose a housing opportunity.
“If they change their phone number they have to call me, otherwise after three attempts to contact them I’m forced by standard procedure to go to the next person and remove them,” she said. .
However, social workers can help them keep in touch with people and Nelson also offers his own office as a place where people can come and fill out applications.
Nelson said when people come to grips with homelessness or whatever, she personally advocates for them to start a better life.
Nelson said it’s also working with other Hannibal organizations, like the Salvation Army and the Douglas Community, to make sure everyone gets all the help they can get.
“Everyone deserves a warm place to sleep at night,” she said. “Everyone who comes for help deserves a spot on the housing list.”
Nelson said to apply for housing, visit 202 Centerville Rd. in Hannibal.
Jane had someone like Nelson ready to help her when her name appeared on the list. Not only was her deposit paid, but she also discovered that daycare could be deducted from her monthly rent to help land her the job she was looking for.
“Moving here has taken so much stress away from me,” she said. “Even now, when being a new mom gets a little overwhelming, at least I have that space.”