16 Honest, Moving, And Personal Stories About “Hidden” Homelessness

Street homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more people are surfing friends' sofas or squatting in makeshift homes.

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We asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about their experiences of "hidden" homelessness (sleeping in cars, on friends' sofas, or in temporary accommodation rather than on the streets). Here are some of their stories.

2. "I’ve been homeless on and off for almost four years now. I have lots of supportive family and friends, but it’s hard on them to have me around all the time. In summers I sleep in my van in the countryside, showering in lakes and cooking on a camp stove. The worst part isn't living out of a suitcase, it's the looks I get from co-workers or friends when I tell them I’m technically homeless."

– Submitted by hatesusernames

3. "I’m 19 and I live at a homeless shelter. I’m working really hard to get my life back on track but it’s a lot harder than you’d think. I have a job and I’m a hard worker. I’ve only told two of my friends because it’s embarrassing. I still dress nice and keep up my appearance because I don’t want anyone to realise what I’m going through. People look at me differently when I come out of the shelter than when I walk out of work. I’m the same person in both places though."

– Submitted by ashliew

5. "When I was 19 and in my first year of university, I became irreconcilably estranged from my family and had to travel the country to stay on friends’ settees. I even volunteered at a festival just so I had somewhere to camp and be fed for a weekend. It was incredibly difficult and it was so hard to break free of it. To get any support or employment you need an address, and I was moving every couple of days. People didn't really understand, as when you mention homelessness you immediately think of being on the streets, and I wasn't (although I always had a single duvet with me, just in case)."

– Submitted by jmb5377

6. "My mum phoned me up on my last day of college and told me I wasn’t welcome back and that she'd changed the locks. I was 18 and the fact I'd just finished my course meant she no longer got child benefit for me. For a good few months I was sofa surfing and spending some nights outside. During the day my amazing ex would let me stay in his house while he was at college – I could have a bath and his mum would feed me. I had no help off the council whatsoever. Luckily for me, my old foster parents found out and took me back in just before the winter, which was so bad that a local lad passed out in the snow and died."

– Submitted by robynbobt

8. "I worked for a housing charity for several months before I turned 20. It was there I discovered the difference between homelessness and rooflessness. We housed vulnerable young people, many of whom had been kicked out. I will never forget one young girl's story of sheltering in her mum’s yard because she refused to let her in because she’d been outed as gay by a family 'friend'. The charity has since closed and I can’t stop thinking about all those young people."


– Submitted by newu1994

9. "My mum found out that my sister’s friends were couch surfing and missing college, so they now live with us. We also have two homeless lads living with us at the moment. Their parents lost their homes, and because they're over 16 they're not eligible to be housed with their family. It’s awful that so many young people are homeless and having to couch surf and walk miles to find a place to sleep at night, and that colleges aren’t picking up on students' problems and offering help."

– Submitted by panthuras

10. "I was homeless for nine months, living with my 6-year-old autistic son in a cheap local hotel after my landlord sold up without any prior warning. I received no help from the local authorities, and I wasn’t able to save my wage quickly enough to rent somewhere privately. Thankfully I was eventually referred to a tenancy support agent who managed to get us both a council property.

"A year on from hitting that low point my son and I are finally able to start making this house our home and we now are in a position to offer out our spare room to other people in a similar position. That being said, my son still comes home from school with that heartbreaking question, 'Have we still got our house?'"

– Submitted by ashleys41835f219

12. "In 2016, I had a scary roommate and I needed to get out of the situation as soon as possible. But even though I was taking online summer college classes, working as a full-time intern, and working in two part-time jobs, I still couldn’t afford any accommodation. Sometimes I slept in my office, sometimes I slept at the tanning salon I worked at, and sometimes I slept at friends’ houses. I was exhausted, embarrassed, and ended up failing a class because everything was so overwhelming. I am beyond grateful to have friends who supported me and loved me through those six weeks."

– Submitted by abigailt4a11ea47e

13. "My parents and I always had a rough relationship. I wasn’t a bad child, they were just very religious and we didn’t see eye to eye. They said I was rebellious for staying out too late. On one occasion I was kicked out when working nights at a job and started living out of my car. I went to the local park to clear my head and decided to sunbathe. Someone called an ambulance thinking I had passed out or something. It was really embarrassing and very depressing. That was a really low point in my life and I still cringe although I know it wasn’t my fault."

– Submitted by cassmarie20

15. "Even though my husband worked full time, he was putting me through school, so we couldn't manage to save enough money for our own place. Every few months we would end up on another friend's couch, twice moving in with people we had only met a few times. I’d cry but we would always say, 'At least we aren’t on the streets.' But living on couches out of duffle bags while working and going to school was one of the hardest and scariest things I’ve ever done. We made it through and I’m so thankful for my husband and each person who opened their home to us while I was getting my education."

– Submitted by gizibay

16. "In the past year I have lived in five different households (my mum's, my dad's, with two friends, and with my fella) and I just want to say it is hard. Like, so hard. People think at least you have somewhere warm to stay, and I agree – I’m so lucky to have people to help me – but it doesn’t mean that it’s not draining. Living out of a suitcase means that I neglect other parts of my life, especially my mental and physical health. But I'll soon have a place and I already have someone lined up to stay with me in the same way I was helped. Time to give back!

"To everyone offering your friends and family a catch-free settee to crash on, you don’t realise how incredible you are. Keep it up, you wonderful people."


– Submitted by bethaneys

Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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