Extract from ABC News
On a cold, wet evening in Melbourne, Ross Hall will often wander the city streets alone.The 46-year-old has been homeless for more than a year and has become relatively confident in these surroundings.
He knows where to get food, heat it up, and where to sleep in relative safety.
But it was a vastly different story when Ross was first forced onto the streets after a family breakdown.
"It was scary," Ross says.
"I didn't know who to go to, didn't know what to do, didn't know who was out there to help."I guarantee the first two, three nights you don't sleep. You'll be sitting in the corner with the back to the wall just watching, just waiting for something."
Months passed and Ross' mental health declined rapidly as he feared no one cared about him.
"Tried to kill myself a few times," Ross says.
"I know quite a lot who have even tried to kill themselves because they are homeless, they think that's the only way out.
"I didn't know there was help out there until I ended up in the psych hospital and it was just one nurse who told me about the Living Room."
The Living Room is a refuge for the city's homeless, providing a place to eat as well as a place to wash themselves and their clothes. Due to a lack of funding the organisation must shut its doors every night, forcing its clients back onto the street.
Ross says he thanks the nurse "every day, every single day" for telling him about The Living Room.
Video: Ross Hall explains what his first day homeless was like. (ABC News)
Ross agreed to take 7.30 around the streets to see what it's like for the city's homeless.
Every 25 metres or so there's another person huddled on the cold, hard concrete, engulfed in blankets in an attempt to keep warm.
"A lot of them don't have waterproof sleeping bags, they just have blankets," Ross explains.
"Once they get wet, they're soaking."
A food truck arrives outside Flinders Street train station and a queue quickly forms.
"In the last 12 months we've seen demand ramp up," says volunteer Manu Hume, from Big Umbrella.
"We generally get 200 a night."
'That ripped my soul apart'
Ross has come to the Flinders Street train station to meet Karlee Nardella, a friend he met at the Living Room shelter a few months ago.
"I've been homeless on and off for 20 years and I'm 40 now," Karlee says.
"Drugs have kept me alive in the sense I've been scared to go to sleep because I'm scared I'm going to get raped on the streets."Escaping domestic violence is the main reason Karlee found herself homeless.
"I had to go work as working girl down at St Kilda and that ripped my soul apart," she says.
She now regards herself as one of the fortunate ones, having been granted public housing.
"I'm really lucky but I feel really sorry for other women."
For Ross, Karlee's story is all too familiar.
"I've noticed there's more young girls that seem to be homeless all the time and I can't understand why," he says.
'The public are very judgemental'
Video: Chris Richardson has had trouble sleeping since the Bourke Street incident when a car hit and killed six people. (ABC News)
Ross now refuses to sleep on the city streets for safety reasons. Those sleeping outdoors are forced to defend themselves and their possessions from would-be thieves.
Most night he squats in an abandoned building out in the suburbs. On other nights he will wander the streets looking for other rough sleepers in need of company.
Like many other squatters, Ross keeps his sleeping spot a closely-guarded secret.
We meet Chris Davidson, a 43-year-old homeless man, rugged up on Bourke Street Mall.
"Shopkeepers aren't too bad, they've got to know me," Chris says.
"But a lot of the public are very judgemental. People walk past and spit on us. They abuse us.
"I heard someone today say, 'Don't give this bloke any money, he's a fake'.
"I go, 'Yeah mate, does it look like I'm super comfortable, does it? I'm sleeping on bloody concrete'."Chris recalls several times his possessions were stolen and when he was threatened by another homeless person.
He now opts to sleep under a bright light and a security camera. In recent months he's also had a mate, 33-year-old Blake Tongue, sleep nearby for added protection.
Despite this Chris remains a light sleeper, suffering what he describes as post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I'm also having trouble sleeping after Bourke Street," he says, referring to the car that ploughed through lunchtime crowds in January.
"I'm on medication to help me sleep, but I still have flashbacks."
Chris says the car narrowly missed him.
"I've seen a kid get cleaned up in the pram who died," he says.
"Three-month-old baby boy. I was literally 20 metres away when it happened.
"It's really affected me. It's affected the people who lost loved ones more but it really has affected me. And I don't think I'll ever get over it."
'How much further can they fall?'
Melbourne's homeless crisis blasted onto television screens earlier this year, when police clashed with rough sleepers after Melbourne Council tried to eradicate makeshift camps. Council is expected to revisit the policy at the end of the month.
While the issue has disappeared from the headlines, it remains a major concern for those trying to give a helping hand, particularly as the winter months take hold.
"I'm really fearful for the homeless because how much further can they fall?" says Melanie Raymond, chief executive of Youth Projects, the not-for-profit that runs the Living Room.
"It's going to be very cold, there'll be not much support around, they're going to find it harder to get support, because they are going to be locked in a game of cat and mouse trying to protect what little belongings they have and trying to find somewhere to sleep and exist."
It's a concern Ross shares.
"All I can say is come try it," he says.
"Come on a rainy night and you'll see how many people are saturated, drenched.
"Come and try and spend a few nights on the street in the cold and then everyone will understand how hard it is for us."