Simon is reading the newspaper, outside the shops where he usually beds down on a Saturday night, and frowning.
The headline proclaims the ACT government's new plan to end rough sleeping in the capital, a trial based off both local and international research which will take 20 people out of chronic homelessness and into homes over the next two years. Simon mouths the number again. 20.
"But there's lots of us out here. What's that going to do for me?" he asks.
The ACT's new "Housing First" program might be small but experts and services have hailed it as a chance to test a real solution to one of Canberra's more uncomfortable realities: in Australia's wealthiest city, pockets of disadvantage still run deep and rates of homelessness remain high.
What's the plan?
While it's not the first pilot to bear the name housing first, the researchers who recommended it to the ACT government in a 2018 study note it will "hopefully" best embody the model that has seen such success in countries like the US and Finland.
That's because - crucially - it will offer a home without the usual conditions, such as sobriety or income, that often block the most vulnerable from getting a permanent roof over their heads. Under the new "partnership", Housing ACT will provide the properties and charities Catholic Care and St Vincent de Paul the wrap-around support.
Housing Minister Yvette Berry says breaking the cycle of homelessness is crucial but won't happen overnight and the program is starting small, with five properties so far allocated.
There won't be any extra government funding behind the pilot but Catholic Care's Canberra boss Anne Kirwan says the organisation has happily "reshuffled" its services to run it - and a $20,000 grant from Hands Across Canberra will cover the rest.
What is Housing First?
Housing First is as simple (and perhaps Utopian) as it sounds - if you want to end homelessness, then give people homes, stupid. Research shows that when people are fast-tracked out of survival on the street and into stable housing where they can be linked with the services they need, from doctors to legal aid, they are much more likely to turn their lives around for good.
It's worked in Scotland, Canada and New York, Australian cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart, and of course (like much coveted policy) across Scandinavia.
University of Queensland researchers Cameron Parsell and Andrew Clarke are delighted it's finally landed in the nation's capital. But they point out that Australia, like many other countries, is good at funding these kinds of pilots without ever stumping up the capital needed for proper implementation.
"This will solve homelessness for the 20 people who get into that trial," Parsell says. "It's great. It's a big step. But the real test will be what happens after."
Parsell and Clarke already know what happens now. In 2018, the pair examined how the ACT system was working for its most vulnerable.
What they found echoed long-standing warnings from the sector about a bottleneck in crisis shelters and hospital wards as the city's soaring rent priced more people out of a home.
About 400 of them - or roughly 10 per cent of homeless clients - also had complex needs. Maybe they were a single parent with a disability or mental illness, perhaps they had been in and out of jail and developed a drug habit or didn't want to give up their pet to sleep in a bed. For these people the system wasn't working at all.
Homelessness isn't free. The cost turns up somewhere - and it's always more.Cameron Parsell
Kirwan calls it climbing the staircase - as public housing wait lists continue to blow out, people sleeping rough are shunted through shelters and short-term homes where they must run a gauntlet of paperwork and conditions before they finally get the keys to somewhere permanent. Many don't make it through.
"We knew it wasn't working but [that study] showed us there was a whole group of people we weren't reaching at all," Kirwan says.
"We reconfigured our services to take this model to the government [with St Vincent de Paul]. It's not the first time Housing First has been put to them but now we have a real chance to prove it will work here in Canberra like it's worked elsewhere. It's very exciting."
Who will make the 20?
The 20 people selected will be those in long-term homelessness, triaged based on need, largely through St Vinnie's existing Street to Home outreach.
When the pilot wraps in a year - and an evaluation is handed down - Kirwan expects clients will stay in those homes, though the government has so far not given an absolute guarantee, instead noting support will be ongoing and "may include the option to remain".
The government says intensive case management will run for the first six to 12 months of the pilot, depending on each person's needs, with all 20 housed by the end of the two years. Clarke says it's particularly encouraging to hear support will be tailored and long-term - previous models in Australia have often been hamstrung by under-resourcing.
"People get support for say six months and are then left to their own devices," he says.
The Catholic Care team expect many of the men housed will be those with dogs.
"Right now there's no where for people with pets," she says. "We've even looking at how we can open up one of our [existing] shelters to pets for the first time."
Will it work large-scale in Canberra?
So, presuming all goes to plan, could this change more than just 20 lives in Canberra?
At ACT Shelter, Travis Gilbert says a crucial first step is collecting proper data on homelessness. Without it, he says, responses are largely blind to the true scale of the problem - something many experts agree is not captured in a spot survey on national census night every five years.
While ABS figures say ACT homelessness has fallen between 2011 and the last census in 2016, rough sleeping has almost doubled in that time and workers now report seeing more people dossing down in doorways and carparks, or camping out bush.
Many gather outside Kirwan's office in Braddon at night, on stairwells round the back or behind shrubs.
"In other cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Newcastle, Hobart, services take a survey of people every year so they can have a clear picture of who's sleeping rough and where they are ending up," Gilbert says.
"We've seen one state relying on the ABS data, they built properties to match - and they were way off."
The ACT government says it already collects data from a "variety of sources" but Parsell and Clarke admit they ran up against its "serious limitations" during their own recent research.
Whatever the real number, there's good news too - the small size of the ACT means it will still sit within reach of a solution.
"It's not an insurmountable number," Parsell says.
"The ACT could be a national leader in this...Homelessness comes down to a failure of policy not money, Canberra is as rich as anywhere."
What will it take to see that level of investment?
For Clarke, housing has long been the "wobbly pillar" of the welfare state.
"It costs money but so do schools and roads," he says. "We just don't see it in the same way anymore."
Parsell agrees: "Homelessness isn't free, the cost turns up somewhere and it's always more. Emergency departments and police watch houses where people go off the street, they [can] cost thousands more a night than housing."
Gilbert says that, while Housing First is starkly cheaper over time than leaving people on the street, rolling it out properly still requires an inconveniently large up-front investment in bricks and mortar.
"That's the kind of thing that can make treasury pale," he says.
The ACT will spend millions over the next few years to grow its public housing stock, bucking a national trend of plummeting investment. But experts warn 200 extra homes will not be enough to stem the backlog of unmet need amid a "failure" of Commonwealth investment.
The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute says Housing First is limited by a lack of affordable housing stock nation-wide.
In the past few decades, the proportion of social housing that first boomed in Australia after world war has almost halved - from seven per cent of all homes in 1991 to 4.2 per cent in 2016.
And as housing has transformed from a societal need to an asset, prices have skyrocketed across the nation.
"You can see the line of social housing falling and homelessness rising," Clarke says.
"In places like Scotland they've managed to really roll out Housing First...most people actually have a legal right to immediate housing there, [though] their social housing [stock] was already high, about a quarter of the market."
It will take courage to end rough sleeping in Australia.
But, as Clarke muses, perhaps this trial will give the ACT government the shot of confidence it needs to start at the nation's heart.
Simon smiles at the idea of joining the first lucky 20.
"That'd be like winning the lottery. Good on them."