Dwayne Pitts, 29, from Ashfield, has been living on $35 a day on Newstart and looking for work for more than three years.

On the breadline … Dwayne Pitts at home in Ashfield. Photo: Wolter Peeters

WHILE some of his friends made big plans to mark the new year, Dwayne Pitts kept things simple. He stayed at home.

''I'm like, how can you afford that? I don't have a hundred dollars spending money in a week, let alone to spend on one night,'' the 29-year-old says.

Mr Pitts's main goal for 2013 has, so far, proven similarly beyond his reach. After more than three years of unemployment, hundreds of applications and dozens of interviews, he hopes this year to get a job.

''I anxiously await the day where I don't require the government [payment] any more. At the moment it's that or not survive,'' he says.

Mr Pitts says he receives about $270 a week in government benefits, comprising a Newstart payment of about $215, plus rental assistance.

This covers his fortnightly rent of $200 for a shared unit in Ashfield - Salvation Army supported accommodation he moved into from a men's shelter three months ago.

Money is tight for groceries in rent week. His fortnightly list for a ''shopping week'' trip typically includes mince meat, sausages, milk, bread, bananas, pasta, juice and a soft drink. This sets him back $70 to $80, he says.

After other fortnightly expenses - including $40 for his transport, $30 for phone credit, and $80 to $100 to cover some outstanding debts - Mr Pitts says he would generally have about $20 to $40 a week left in his wallet for discretionary spending.

''It is tough,'' he says, ''but I manage.

''I know people who are on Centrelink who haven't been as lucky to get into community housing … I can't even imagine how they do it.''

He doesn't know how the Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, would either. ''I'd like to see her try for a week and see what happens.''