The inadequacy of the Newstart allowance has been a near-constant refrain in recent weeks, and yet in the first days of hearings at the Senate inquiry into a possible increase to the unemployment benefit, the stories already beggar belief.
Aside from the image of instant coffee salvaged from the kitchen floor to save having to buy a new jar, there have been equally disturbing anecdotes of the Kafkaesque bureaucratic hoops through which Newstart recipients are required to jump before receiving the meagre allowance.
One recipient had to apply for 20 jobs a month, and in a moment of what he said was "totally catch-22 madness", he was forced to apply for 10 jobs in the fortnight before he started a new job this year, despite already having a job and start date.
Another, a man with post-graduate qualifications and 20 years of experience in his field, is now required to complete 650 hours of work a year for the dole. He said this exceeded the maximum community service order a court could impose in NSW for an offence with a one-year jail term.
But even more disturbing have been the responses provided so far during the hearing by government officials when asked about the effect of poverty on job searchers.
For instance, Social Security deputy secretary Nathan Williamson said he was not aware of any research on the impact of poverty on getting a job, confirming that Australia, as a long-standing position, did not have a definition of poverty.
But many Australians have a good idea of what poverty looks like, notwithstanding the lack of an official definition.
It involves the inability to get a haircut, buy new clothes or even eat the nutritious food required to effectively search for a job.
It involves the awful, gut-wrenching mental gymnastics of determining exactly what you can afford to do without this week - heating, petrol or breakfast.
It involves the certain knowledge, becoming ever more entrenched, that Newstart is a trap - a "hammock not a trampoline" - that makes it ever more difficult to escape.
The government line is that everyone should, preferably, have a job. That the very experience of being on Newstart should be enough to deter someone from applying for it in the first place.
But tell that to public housing tenants falling behind on their rent as they struggle to get their mandated 20 job applications a month completed.
A story about Canberrans doing it tough on Newstart shouldn't come as any big surprise to many people.
Or perhaps it does: it's possible that there are still too many people, both in and outside of Canberra, who hold fast to the dated notion that the city is one populated exclusively by privileged, highly paid public servants.
But all cities have a dark side - a notional cavern of secrets, shame and hardship.
And it doesn't always involve drugs, crime or violence. It can just as easily involve panic-inducing trips to the supermarket, or a steady stream of job rejections.
Sometimes the dark side is made up of poverty - the kind that stands out in stark relief against the wider society in which it festers.
So, in a city speckled with fancy cafes, the idea of someone picking shards of glass out of a mound of instant coffee, swept up from the kitchen floor after the jar has been accidentally shattered, is exactly as jarring as it should be.