Not all those who are homeless sleep rough on the streets. There are many more people you don’t see. The term “hidden homelessness” refers to those who live temporarily with friends or family (couch surf) or are sleeping in cars. These people have no other option, as many were living in unsafe or inadequate housing.
This population is rarely counted in national counts, so the actual number of individuals living this way is hard to pin down. It is estimated that over 80% of Canada’s homeless population is hidden. Youth, in particular, are a large section of this hidden population, as many couch surf at friends’ or relative’s homes.
There are hidden youth, adults, families, and seniors. Many move from friend’s house to friend’s house, while waiting on long waitlists for supportive housing. Some live in their cars or in abandoned buildings. Women may accept housing from a man, even if he’s dangerous, just to avoid sleeping on the streets. These hidden people all live in temporary accommodation and stay away from the public eye.
Many liken homelessness to an iceberg. Those you can see (sleeping rough) are just a small minority.