Skip to main content
Supported by Crisis

Share the invisible struggle

Get creative and show people that there’s more to homelessness than meets the eye.

You will need

  • Big pieces of card
  • Big pieces of paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Craft materials (for example, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, stickers)
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks
  • Access to a computer
  • Access to the internet
  • Sofa surfing information sheet
Sofa surfing information
PDF – 156.6KB

Before you begin

  • Don’t worry too much if you don’t have access to the internet. The videos we’ve included help explain the issue, but they’re not essential. You could always send the links to people so they can watch them at home, in the library, or at school.
  • This is a great chance to use all of the arts and crafts materials you can get your hands on, including paint and scraps of card and fabric. The only limit is your imagination (and the amount of mess you want to make).

Understand the issue

  1. The person leading the activity should explain that homelessness isn’t just about people sleeping on the streets. ‘Sofa-surfing’ is another type of homelessness where people sleep on friends’ (or even strangers’) sofas because they have nowhere else to go. People are often less aware of it because it’s hidden and invisible.
  2. Everyone should guess how common sofa-surfing is. The person leading the activity should explain that sofa-surfing makes up a big proportion of people experiencing homelessness. For every person sleeping rough on the street, another 12 are stuck in night shelters, hostels, sofas, public transport, or other unsafe or unsecure accommodation.
  3. The person leading the activity should explain that at the moment*, over 71,000 families and individuals across Great Britain sleep on the sofas and floors of friends and family.
  4. Everyone should chat about the difficulties they think come with sofa-surfing. Someone should write all of the ideas down on big piece of paper.
  5. If they can, the person leading the activity should show everyone Crisis’ video: ‘Not all homelessness is visible’.
  1. Everyone should look at the ‘Sofa-surfing information’ sheet to find out more. They could also check out the Crisis website, if they have internet access.
  1. Everyone should add anything new to the big piece of paper, including difficulties and statistics. Why do they think so many people are unaware of this type of homelessness?

*figures correct as of December 2019.

Create a display

  1. Everyone should think about how they could creatively present everything they’ve learned about sofa-surfing so other people can learn too.
  1. Everyone should work together to create an eye-catching and informative display. They may want to make sure it includes information about how common sofa-surfing is, as well as the effects and causes.

Spread the word

  1. Everyone should decide where they’ll display their artwork. They could think about public spaces like parks, marketplaces, or libraries.
  1. Everyone should set up their display where people will see it.
  2. Everyone should explain their display to anyone who asks. They should tell they when they set it up.
  3. Everyone should encourage people to think about whether local decision makers (for example, councillors or MPs) could do more to make people aware of sofa-surfing and prevent it.
  4. Anyone who agreed that local decision makers should do more should write their name on the artwork (or a sign up sheet).
  5. After they’ve finished displaying their artwork, everyone should work together to write a letter to go with a photograph of copy of their artwork with everyone’s name on it. What do they want the decision maker to do?
  1. It may take a while for the decision maker to reply. If they haven’t heard back within a few weeks, people may want to send a follow-up letter.
  2. If the decision maker’s able to meet with everyone, they should ask them to help with Crisis’ ‘Cover the cost’ campaign. Will they write a pledge and take a photo with the group to share on social media?

This activity helps contribute towards some of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Find out more about the SDGs, and how Scouts across the world are getting involved.


This activity was all about communicating. How did Crisis share their findings? They wrote a big report, but they also pulled out some key bits to make it easier to read. How did the group present the information? Was it easier to understand their display or the original report? Was their display eye-catching? Did it contain lots of information? How else could they have drawn people in?

This activity was also about being a citizen. How can people influence local decision makers? Do you think people have a responsibility to speak up about issues like homelessness? Did the decision maker pledge to take any action? Why do people think more decision makers aren’t taking action to end homelessness? How else could people spread the work in their community?


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.


Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Glue and solvents

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions which could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe.

For more support around online safety or bullying, check out the NSPCC website. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command.

As always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare (including their online experiences), follow the Yellow Card reporting processes.