One in every 13 Canberrans is struggling to pay for essentials such as housing and food, research has found.
Inequality is increasing in the capital, according to University of Canberra researchers, who found 28,639 residents were classified as disadvantaged under the ABS Socio-Economic Indexes for Individuals.
Welfare agencies are expecting that number to surge as public service cuts start to hit Canberra, according to St Vincent de Paul chief executive Paul Trezise.
''As a result of what's going on in the public service, we may be heading into another time where people will struggle,'' he said.
''We know the last time that there were major reductions in the public service, we did see an increase in demand in Canberra. We are preparing for that, for sure.''
The Disadvantage in the ACT report, issued by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling on Friday, found that 21,528 Canberrans were living in poverty.
A total of 14,148 people were also found to be experiencing financial stress, calculated by a person's ability to raise $2000 in a week for emergency reasons, and 9910 households were facing housing stress.
The 28,639 people experiencing disadvantage only includes residents aged between 15 and 64 years.
Mr Trezise said the figures reflected what welfare agencies were seeing on the front line, where calls for assistance remained steady. ''We see areas, scattered around Canberra, where people are living in poverty,'' he said.
''We see people struggling with rent, we see people struggling with utility bills.''
Statistics from St Vincent de Paul's 24 local volunteer groups, including specialist homelessness services, stated that a total of 21,961 people received $741,400 in assistance during the past financial year.
The figures showed a spike over Christmas, where St Vincent de Paul provided $131,333 worth of assistance to 2094, and increased demand in March, when the agency gave $67,375 of support to 2287 people.
Mr Trezise said many households were sacrificing healthy food and clothing in order to meet high rental costs, listed as a median weekly rate of $380 in the report.
The weekly figure was above the national median rental price of $285, as well as that of the closest capital city of Sydney at $355.
ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar said high rents were one of the primary drivers of Canberra's high cost of living, calculated using a typical selection of goods and services.
''We have to address both the high cost of living and better target income support so we can increase payments to the people who need them most,'' she said.
The report found that Canberra had 14 suburbs with levels of financial stress above the national average, though report author and NATSEM acting director Robert Tanton said the locations could not be disclosed.
The report also detailed that the poorest 10 per cent of households in the capital were making $346 a week, slightly more than a fifth of the richest 10 per cent's weekly earnings of $1710.