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Saturday 19 October 2019

'If it wasn't for college friends giving me couch, I'd have slept in the park' - students on how they 'couch-surfed' through year

Living out of a rucksack: Students are being forced to sleep on friends’ couches throughout the academic year due to lack of housing. Stock picture
Living out of a rucksack: Students are being forced to sleep on friends’ couches throughout the academic year due to lack of housing. Stock picture

Gabija Gataveckaite

TWO 22-year-old DCU students have spoken about their experiences with 'couch-surfing' as a way to get through the academic year without paying extortionate rents.

A student from Co Mayo found himself effectively homeless last summer after his accommodation fell through.

Unable to afford any other options, he resorted to couch-surfing to get through his repeat exams last August.

"A large network of friends really helped me when I was homeless because if I didn't have it, I would have had to have slept on benches so many times," he said.

While friends let him sleep on the sofa most nights, sometimes he was stuck.

Random

"I went into the student bar at least twice or three times, just talking to random people and after a while I would say, 'look, I'm in a really bad situation, is there any chance I could stay on the couch?'"

"One random person let me stay at their family home," he said.

He didn't open up about his situation to his parents and when his repeat exams rolled around in August, he was forced to sleep on couches again.

"I was staying on people's couches but I still felt like I was a burden and so I stayed out of their houses all day," he said.

"I had a cart from Lidl to hold my stuff and I would hide it in the corner of the library all day. I was using the library as much as I could but I wasn't using it to study."

"It was quite a low point in my life," he said.

The second student, who lived with his parents in south Kilkenny, simply could not afford to live in Dublin while studying. "I don't have enough money to pay for accommodation as rent in Dublin is mad and I don't get a grant," he explained.

He relied on couch surfing to get through the typical university week.

Car

For the past year and a half, he stayed with a friend near the university. As he has his own car, instead of paying rent, he paid his friend with transportation.

"It's a given that I'll be staying at her house now. I cook food and I clean up and her housemates are happy enough," he added.

His car, which he has named 'Sandy', has been his saving grace and it doubles up as a place to hold his personal belongings.

"I can live from my car - I usually pack for the week when I'm home at weekends because I go home to work, so I can afford to come up to Dublin.

"I have a bag of clothes in the boot with a sleeping bag. My backpack with stuff for college in it has toiletries, a toothbrush, spare socks and jocks."

Irish Independent

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