Beyond a Bed: Supportive Connections Forged Between Youth Who Are Couch Hopping and Adult Hosts
Date of this version
“Couch hopping” is generally considered a form of housing instability. Prior research has highlighted the discomfort and, sometimes, dangers associated with couch hopping in late adolescence or young adulthood. However, we postulated that in some cases youth may develop positive longer-term housing arrangements with adults drawn from their existing network. Through in-depth interviews with a diverse group of nine youth (17–23 years) dealing with housing instability and ten adult hosts in rural, suburban and urban areas of a Midwestern state, we sought to explore how youth found adults to stay with, what kind of support they received, as well as the character of the hosting relationships. To our knowledge, this is the first study to interview hosts. Findings suggest that informal hosting arrangements can include support beyond provision of basic housing needs, that hosts sometimes play a social service role, and that youth and hosts often develop family-like ties. Also, youth do not typically initiate: more often peers or other third parties facilitate the arrangement, or the host issues an invitation. These findings challenge the existing narrative of couch hopping as uniformly negative, and suggest that expanding services for youth facing homelessness to support informal hosting arrangements may be warranted.
Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal