Brad Adams has a past. He spent 12 years in prison for killing a man who attacked him with a broken bottle in a pub. His wife was raped and killed by three men. He says he went after them and exacted revenge.
He still bears the scars of the past - one gash below the chin where the man he killed rammed a bottle into his throat, and also a bullet hole in his back (near the tattoo of his murdered wife). He says he's been shot twice and stabbed once: "If you've got the choice, get shot, not stabbed," he says.
He says he lisps because the jagged bottle split his tongue when he was attacked.
Mr Adams, or "Stretch", as he is universally known, has a terrible past - evil, is the word he uses - but today he is reformed and likeable.
He is one of the pillars of what must be the most difficult community in Canberra.
Or rather, right on the edge of Canberra.
Stretch symbolises the dilemma of the Oaks Estate: how should a compassionate society help those who have fallen as low as human beings can fall?
How should respectable neighbours react to people who have not always been respectable? What are the limits to neighbourliness?
People here aren't the full quid. These people have issues but they still have the right to be treated like human beings.Brad "Stretch" Adams.
Oaks Estate near Queanbeyan is like a forgotten island, cut off by the railway line on one side and the encircling loop of the Molonglo River on the other three.
Two very different communities coexist there. On the one hand, there are privately owned bungalows in a typical middle-class suburb. On the other, there is a complex of six red brick blocks of flats for 130 people with the deepest problems: severe drug abuse, schizophrenia, recent criminal pasts.
These people who would otherwise be homeless would find it difficult to live without the help of a variety of agencies, including EveryMan which houses the otherwise homeless and the Havelock Housing Association.
The St Vincent de Paul Society does much of the day-to-day work. It has a community room where everybody is welcome.
Its manager there, Joshua Arona, said the complex was "a safe space for people to come to".
He works hard in a job that anybody would find demanding.
The community can be rough - but it is a community. Mr Arona said he was building up trust with the police.
There is a monthly meeting where both halves of the Oaks Estate are welcome. There is a barbecue on Tuesdays and Fridays and "outside people are welcome to come".
Stretch helps as an intermediary between Vinnies and officialdom on one side and his fellow residents who are trying to rescue their lives.
"I just see these people as downtrodden, isolated," he said.
"I am content. I love these people. I'm happy doing what I do. I'm needed."
"People here aren't the full quid. These people have issues but they still have the right to be treated like human beings."
He is shy - he says nobody, but nobody is allowed to take his picture - which is a pity because his 62-year-old face is craggy and lean. He's also fit ("I haven't had a drink for 23 years").
Strange to say, you do come away from him feeling better about humanity.
He says he has won a "forced respect" from other residents. He keeps an eye on moods and flash-points and intervenes if he has to, fronting people up if necessary.
"I'm not a nice person. I'm an arse," he said.
But he does have a heart and a soft side. He is kind to some of the residents with serious mental problems - some so serious, they don't even know they have them, is the way he puts it.
There is a strong sense of right and wrong in Mr Adams (as he doesn't call himself).
And he is on his feet after a life of extreme violence, jail, living in a van and losing the wife he still clearly loves (he is proud of the faded tattoo of her on his back above the bullet scar.
The aim, according to the Vinnies people, is for residents to move on when they can stand on their own feet. The problem is that some of them can't. One person has been there for 30 years.
The problem is also a lack of affordable housing, according to Josh Arona.
Most of the people in the complex come nowhere near work. They would find it hard to sustain a job even if someone offered them one.
Getting in and out without a car is a trek. ACT buses don't go there. Queanbeyan buses are few and far between.
But there are successes.
Simon Whiteside works hard at two jobs despite his schizophrenia, which is kept in check by medication. Sometimes, he sinks right down and "the voices hook you". He has hearing problems but he has been clear of his cancer now for long enough to feel he has survived it.
And yet, heroically, he is a cleaner some mornings and on other mornings he collects discarded bottles and cans from RSL clubs and helpful institutions like Government House and takes them to the recycling depot in Fyshwick.
Vinnies set up the can collection enterprise and Mr Whiteside was suitable and keen so he now has purpose and money. He earns $25 an hour but above all, he has pride in working - and saving.
"I find it gets me out of the house and challenges my mind to do something."
He has managed to save some thousands of dollars for a car and, he hopes one fine day, a house.
"If I had a car I could be more independent."
He says wages allow him to buy food rather than relying on the food parcels which arrive on Wednesdays. "You don't have to count on their food supplies."
His drive and ambition and what seems like a pure decision to hope rather than slump are uplifting. He's nice to be around.
But the proximity of the two groups on the island - society's casualties alongside respectable middle class homes - isn't easy.
Some of the latter are tolerant and some are not - or rather they are frightened.
The people who run the complex for the problem people say that the other residents walk down George Street on the other side.
And one man warned The Canberra Times not to get out of the car - it was just too dangerous. In the event, this reporter did get out of the car, and was welcomed to the Friday barbecue with sausage and coleslaw.
But it's true, there have been incidents. Earlier in the year, one resident was bashed senseless.
The Vinnies people say that outsiders are the usual cause of trouble. Among others, they blame "couch surfers" who come in and stay with friends, sometimes for prolonged periods.
Brad Adams - Stretch - says it's not as bad as it was six months ago. "It was a war zone. We had six patrols of police every day." Now, he says, it is much better.
But the wider problem remains. Many of the mentally ill are on medication. Some of the residents have deep addiction problems (though one resident reckoned there were more narcotics up in the embassies in Yarralumla).
Nobody but a saint would choose to live next to a complex for the mentally ill, the drug affected and people on parole.
And saints are in short supply.
The island of the Oaks Estate is as far away from the rest of the territory as anyone could be put - dumped some would say.