Face of homelessness: Dylan Jay, who has been homeless for five years, outside Central Station, where he has slept for two. Photo: Wolter Peeters
This is the face of homelessness in Sydney. In The Terminal, Tom Hanks played a man who was incarcerated in New York's JFK Airport for nine months. Dylan Jay, 19, said he has lived on the concourse at Central Station for two years.
Trains come and go but he isn't going anywhere.
He is just one of many. The latest figures from the City of Sydney council show a ''serious increase'' in homelessness, with a 26 per cent rise in the number of people sleeping rough over the past year.
Homeless Sleeping Rough
From left, Luke Dunn, 31, with his partner Dylan Jay, 19, sleeping rough outside Central station on Eddy Ave. Photo: Wolter Peeters
With about two-thirds of the city covered in the council count, the homelessness unit found that there were 346 people sleeping rough, an increase on 274 at the same time last year and 255 in August.
Many believe the situation may be about to get much worse, with federal funding cuts looming. In June, $29.1 million will be lost in federal funding used to reduce homelessness and for early intervention to prevent people becoming homeless.
The issue of homelessness and social housing is about to rise up the political agenda with the launch, on Thursday, of a Legislative Council select committee inquiry into social, public and affordable housing. There have been about 150 submissions to the inquiry from politicians, councillors, charities and housing groups and individuals.
A submission by the NSW government states that, in the past 10 years, in what many see as equivalent to selling off the family silver, more than 9000 council properties have been sold off.
The submission states: ''The removal of $29.1 million in Commonwealth government funding for homelessness in NSW will have flow-on impacts to the wider housing and homelessness sectors.''
Opposition housing and local government spokeswoman Sophie Cotsis, who is on the committee, said Premier Barry O'Farrell needed to take personal responsibility for driving down homelessness.
''I can't understand why Barry O'Farrell shows so little interest,'' she said. ''The state Liberal government has a lot to answer for - cuts to the housing stock, cuts to crisis accommodation and its failure to tackle rental stress. This is what will tip even more people into homelessness.
''After three years of Barry O'Farrell, the public housing waiting list in NSW has blown out to more than 57,000 eligible applicants - that is 120,000 individuals.
''Mr O'Farrell should be prepared to appear before the housing inquiry and explain his government's inaction.''
Gary Moore, of Homelessness NSW, said state government reforms to funding of Specialist Homelessness Services in July were ''sound'' but would mean a loss of $6 million in funding.
''The proposed cut of nearly $6 million, in one go, from inner Sydney homelessness services in 2014-15 runs a huge risk of damaging clients, especially those counted in the latest homelessness report,'' he said.
City of Sydney councillor Linda Scott said the latest numbers revealed only part of the picture, with many more people with no permanent housing sleeping in crisis accommodation or on friends' couches.
''The City of Sydney is a wealthy council that can do more to make housing more affordable in the inner city and become a leader for other councils, and state and federal governments, to follow when it comes to reducing the cost of housing in Sydney,'' she said.
In a submission, Redfern Legal Centre said it was concerned about housing being sold off due to the booming property market.
''RLC is particularly concerned that the inner Sydney area may become a focus of stock sale due to high property values,'' it said. ''Selling stock raises revenue … but it is not a long-term solution to the lack of public housing supply in NSW.''
But Dylan Jay's immediate concern is accessing the electric sockets at Central Station, where he can charge his mobile phone. His partner, Luke Dunn, who just got his benefit, bought it.
It is 8.30pm and Jay is playing Angry Birds. The 19-year-old needs something to pass the time.
While he has lived at Central Station for two years, he has been homeless for five. ''I didn't get along with my parents,'' he said. ''Came to Sydney from Gosford and didn't go back.''
Food is not an issue. There are food vans in the park opposite, with plenty of sandwiches and sometimes fruit. He gets benefits of $300 a fortnight.
''If I wanted to get somewhere [a room], that couldn't even cover one week's rent,'' he said. ''It's about $100 a night or $350 week.''
The pair's bed is a double mattress, recently moved to near the sandstone bridge that carries the light rail; they generally get moved on at 7am each day. Jay has never been to prison and does drugs ''now and then''.
Is he here for life? ''No f---ing. way.''
Jay has noticed an increase in the number of homeless people at the station and thinks Prime Minister Tony Abbott might be the cause.
Dunn, 31, agrees politicians could do more. His solution? ''O'Farrell should buy one of these old buildings they don't use,'' he said. ''Make 100 beds for the homeless.''