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Couch surfing gets some traction in the Top End

Couch surfing gets some traction in the Top End

Couch surfing gets some traction in the Top End

28 April 2021

The Salvation Army mascot Shieldy (AKA Jayden Wigley) gives the thumbs up to Northern Territory Administrator Vicki O’Halloran (seated right) and three members of the Army’s Top End couch-surfing racing team – Sunrise Centre assessment officer Allana Neave, Street to Home program client Darcy Wood and Sunrise Centre resident Tony Balfe.

By Darryl Whitecross

There was no time for lounging around at this year’s Anglicare City of Darwin couch-surfing event, with The Salvation Army sitting comfortably among the leading teams in their Top End couch-surfing title tilt. 

The event, held on National Youth Homelessness Matters Day on 21 April, was billed as a celebration of the resilience of young people affected by homelessness and, as well as being a fun activity for the community, aimed to teach young people what they or a friend should do if they found themselves homeless.

There were more than 20 entries from various community organisations, youth services and schools, with couches decorated in fun and artistic ways. The Army team did themselves proud by reaching the semi-finals.

Dino DosSantos, a case worker with the Army’s Social Mission and Community Engagement department and coordinator of the Street 2 Home program in Darwin, said the Army team and their couch were “thrown together at the last minute”.

Dino said the team’s couch was supplied by Salvos Stores and the paint job was done by clients from the Army’s Sunrise Centre, which operates a homeless shelter and AOD (alcohol and other drugs) rehabilitation programs.

At the starting line – Allana Neave is seated and ready for The Salvation Army Top End Couch Surfing Team’s inaugural run in the annual Anglicare City of Darwin couch-surfing event.

“Anglicare, which runs the event, came and picked it [the couch] up to take it away to put the wheels on. That was the last time we saw it before the race. Anglicare puts the same wheels on every couch so that no one can claim an advantage,” said Dino, who added that each team was made up of four young people – three pushers and one seated on the couch.

Dino said case managers from various Army streams across Darwin had recently been discussing how they could get involved in community events that would lift the profile of the Army’s programs. Having an entry in the couch-surfing race day came out of those discussions.

Darwin Corps Officer Major Kim Hawke said the Army’s Sunrise Centre and Street 2 Home program teams “collaborated well” to create and enter the racing couch.

The event also highlighted three key points – that homelessness was not only about rough sleeping as many young people were couch surfing or living in overcrowded conditions; that young people needed services to support them when they are experiencing homelessness; and that they needed to be given ‘a fair go’ when applying for rental accommodation.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that of about 4000 young people aged between 12-24 experiencing homelessness in the Northern Territory, the majority are living in overcrowded accommodation or couch surfing.

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