Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=205078
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Rahel Solomon/MEDILL

Chicagoans shuffle to work on a quiet Thursday morning at the Jackson Boulevard and State Street intersection, where thousands of protesters are expected to march  May 20 and 21. 


Before welcoming couch surfers for NATO, hosts urged to be mindful

by Rahel Solomon
May 03, 2012


Related Links

For more safety tips visit couchsurfing.org

Couch Surfing Defined:

According to couchsurfing.org, an online network of members in more than 230 countries, hosts can offer couch surfing travelers a place to stay while traveling.

Travelers can also reach out to hosts for a place to crash along their travels.

Members set up an online profile and connect via their profiles.


While some Chicagoans groan about the thousands of protesters expected to converge on the city for the NATO summit, others prepare to welcome those same protesters, complete strangers to them, into their homes.


The concept, couch surfing, isn’t new. Travelers have been taking advantage of couch surfing for more than a decade, but for Chicagoans planning on opening their doors, there are safety and legal considerations to keep in mind before signing up.

“We’re trying to use social media to highlight the different options and services people have who need a place to stay,” said Matt McLoughlin of Occupy Chicago.

Occupy Chicago, a major player in the protests later this month, is suggesting its followers consider hosting couch surfers for protesters visiting from across the country and around the world.

Couchsurfing.org, an online network of couch surfers, suggests hosts set clear expectations and guidelines early for a couch surfer’s stay.

Marcus Demery, of Occupy Chicago, is planning on opening his apartment to couch surfers for the summit.

“I’ve connected with people way before NATO to know if they need housing,” Demery said, “then for my own preferences, what they do for a living, why they are a part of the occupy movement, and how they can help the movement.”

Legally, couch surfers have the same rights as other house guests, said David Abels, a personal injury lawyer.

“It’s not different than any other situation, inviting a couch surfer in or inviting your aunt in,” Abels said. “If there’s a hazardous condition that you didn’t warn them about, you could be liable for negligence if they’re injured.”

McLoughlin says couch surfing is just one housing option for protesters. Occupy Chicago is also securing campsites where protesters can stay overnight. The Trinity Episcopal Church of Chicago on 125 E. 26 St. is a likely campsite, McLoughlin said.

For those planning on visiting the city to protest during the summit, McLoughlin said, “I wouldn’t recommend coming to something like this alone, not because it’s a dangerous situation but it’s always good to come with someone you know.”