I have officially couchsurfed while technically being homeless. I wasn’t really homeless…but I didn’t have a home of my own. I had just moved out to DC for my first job after college, and as I was trying to find my first apartment, I stayed with family friends. My sister did a similar thing, but in NYC. (Thank you to these amazing families!) We had a choice…but not everyone does.
I’ve been working at Launch Ministry for 8 months now. It’s been a long 8 months…so
many different stories, but many with similar themes. Being homeless or having non-
permanent housing is generally part of their stories. As we do not have any shelters in our immediate area (and don’t tell me “oh, they can just go into the city”…yeah – and how are they supposed to get to work/school without transportation as the buses aren’t when and where they need them???), most end up couchsurfing with friends, relatives, relatives of friends, and total strangers. It’s part of their reality – their lives. Perhaps it is part of your life.
And one recurring theme: burning bridges when couchsurfing. So, here are a few guidelines for those couchsurfing…and wanting to stay friends with your host:
Guidelines for Successful Couchsurfing
- You are a guest, but it is not a hotel. Keep your personal items in one, organized, small consolidated area and always clean up your trash.
- Always leave the space looking as if you are not staying there. (Don’t leave clothes wherever they fall, clean up bathroom/kitchen immediately when done, etc.)
- Find ways to help your host – take out the trash, walk the dog, share food from a food shelf, clean (not just after yourself, but other things too!).
- Work everyday towards getting your own place to live – check apartment/room listings and contact every possible option, work overtime or a second job to save money, apply for housing programs, etc.
- If your host(s) say no drugs, alcohol, and smoking – then no drugs, alcohol or smoking. This includes not “coming home” high or drunk. No excuses.
- Do not invite friends over without prior approval from your host(s). If approved, you are responsible for your guest’s behavior and cleaning up after them.
- Set a time limit for your stay with your host and stick to it. Even if your host says “whenever”, keep it to no longer than a few weeks. (You may be able to stay with them later…if you follow these rules.)
As the saying goes, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you will make it.