It's two hours past sundown and the crowd is already shivering outside St Columba's Uniting Church in Braddon.
They're not here for a devout, late-night service. These men, some of them carrying swags or pushing trolleys filled with belongings, are looking for a safe place to sleep.
For the past six years, charity Safe Shelter has been opening Canberra's churches and halls to men sleeping rough through winter. But this year, as demand surges yet again, the team of volunteers have been forced to turn men away at the door - instead putting them up in swags outside.
In the first seven weeks of winter, demand at the shelter has jumped by 80 per cent, offering 309 guest nights compared to 171 over the same period last year. The shelter can take in eight men each night, with room for one more if permission is granted.
"Back when I started volunteering [four years ago] five people in one night was a lot," volunteer Pam says.
"Last night we had to turn away two men in one night for the first time."
When The Canberra Times visited the shelter this month, the rugby was on the telly and a line was steadily forming.
Men offered similar reasons behind their arrival, tragedies and misfortunes that seemed to hit all at once: deaths and marriage breakdowns, car crashes, job loss, violence, eviction.
Among them was CJ, who spent his first night on the street at 14, shivering under a tree in Dickson.
"It was bloody cold, just me and my coat, trying not to get rained on," he said.
Now 21, CJ said he had been fronting up to Safe Shelter every night for the past three weeks.
"I've been in and out of [government] care since I was...one month old," he said.
"It helped more when I was younger, but you'd be moved on every six months."
Despite being bounced around the system, CJ had managed to stay in touch with a psychologist.
"I have really bad anxiety," he said. "I can't always deal with people, they stress me out. The police stress me out too, when they move me on."
Safe Shelter coordinator Richard Griffiths said lots of men using the service were bunkering down at night and heading off to jobs in the morning. Others had no where to go at all during the day.
"All that sleep deprivation, cold, adrenaline, it causes a kind of PTSD just from living on the street," Mr Griffiths said.
The latest available data from Onelink, the government's housing support referral service, showed people waited at least a month on average for a bed in a service.
Mr Griffiths said some who visited the shelter but were under 16 or had no residential rights in the ACT, such as asylum seekers, couldn't even get on the waiting list.
While the ACT government has committed millions to build more public housing and boost front-line homelessness services in the next few years, some in the sector, including Mr Griffiths, say a year-round crisis shelter would alleviate pressure in the meantime, particularly for families or those with pets who can't get into existing services.
But Housing Minister Yvette Berry has said the government is wary of creating more crisis shelters without clear pathways to longer-term options as evidence suggested this could trap people in cyclic homelessness.
Coming here makes me feel like I'm not alone, I've got somewhere.Michael
Michael, 45, is a former systems engineer and swing dancer who has been couch surfing and sleeping rough since the death of his girlfriend last year.
"I was her carer but when she died I got evicted," he said. "I'd let a homeless guy stay with me as well for a while with his dog but he never paid rent."
Michael also suffers from mental illness and permanent injuries from an assault in 2017. After more than four months waiting for public housing, he'd spent the day running around chasing letters of support to help get his case bumped up the list.
"Even when I was still working full-time, it got to the point where I'd prepare for homelessness, scoping out places I could bunker down," he said.
"I slept in a cabinet someone had left in a car park the other night - but I draw the line at a skip!"
While all the men who spoke to the paper said more crisis beds were needed, Michael said some wonderful community services had sprung up to help those doing it tough.
CJ acknowledged he hadn't always done the right thing, falling in with the wrong crowd. But he couldn't get his mental health back on track without a stable place to stay. A stint couch-surfing at a friend's house had recently come to an end when the relationship broke down.
"I'm not a fussy person," he said. "We just want food, warmth, somewhere safe to sleep. Now we go to bed and hope we live the next day sort of thing, I'm sorry to be dramatic but it's really like that."
Based off the latest ABS census data, the ACT's estimated rate of homelessness fell by about 8 per cent between 2011 and 2016. But the number of people counted as rough sleepers on census night almost doubled.
Safe Shelter runs until 26 October seven nights a week from 7pm to 7am. All Saints Ainslie opens Sunday & Monday nights, St Columba's Braddon opens Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday while Salvation Army Canberra City Corps opens Friday & Saturday nights. No bookings required. No meals but hot drinks provided. Swags provided if required. Doors locked and lights out at 10.00 pm.
If you need help with accommodation you can contact Onelink on 1800 176 468 or email@example.com