The Prevalence of Rough Sleeping and Sofa Surfing Amongst Young People in the UK

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

The Prevalence of Rough Sleeping and Sofa Surfing Amongst Young People in the UK


  • Anna Clarke Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning Research, Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, UK


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Abstract:  Whilst data on statutory homelessness is well recorded in the UK, there is a lack of data on informal homelessness (such as ‘sofa surfing’) and rough sleeping, other than that which relies on partial information and street counts. This paper presents findings from a recent online survey of young people and helps to fill this gap. It found that rates of sofa surfing and rough sleeping among young people were much higher than previously thought. Twenty-six percent of young people (aged 16–25) had slept rough at some point in their life and 35 percent had ‘sofa surfed’ (stayed with friends or family on their floor or sofa because they had nowhere else to go). The paper explores the implications of this for how we conceptualise homelessness. It suggests that homelessness may often be neither cause nor consequence of wider forms of exclusion, but that we may need to explore further the factors that enable some people to move swiftly out of homelessness more easily than others.

Keywords:  boomerang generation; hidden homelessness; rough sleeping; sofa surfing; street homelessness; youth homelessness

Published:   20 October 2016


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v4i4.597


© Anna Clarke. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.