A bleak picture of life for Canberra's most vulnerable people emerges from a report by lawyers who help them.
Canberra Community Law and the National Social Security Rights Network drew on their experience dealing with 567 people in the ACT over a year.
They concluded that not enough public housing is available for people with a range of difficulties from mental illness to domestic violence. This shortage resulted in "people sleeping rough, people unable to pay their rent, people sleeping on couches, in their cars and in the living rooms of friends and family."
Their report says there are two problems which pincer the vulnerable: a lack of housing (either affordable private accommodation or public housing) and social security payments which are not high enough to pay rents in privately owned housing.
"Everyone deserves to have somewhere safe and decent to live," said solicitor Sophie Trevitt.
The report said that people sought legal advice "after relationship breakdowns, family tensions or overcrowding, which made their informal living arrangements untenable.
"Those in private rental accommodation said they faced eviction but had not yet been allocated a public housing property.
"Even people in public housing were extremely vulnerable to any changes in their personal circumstances, including unexpectedly high bills or other expenses, or costs associated with repairs or damage, as their Centrelink payments left no room for emergency expenditure."
The report argues that the ACT bureaucracy sometimes ended up prolonging homelessness. Some people who wanted to get on the priority list for housing, for example, filled out the form incorrectly because they had mental problems or because they didn't speak good English.
The lawyers want officials to be more active in helping those people rather than just rejecting applications until they got the form right.
They also say that it is very hard to get public housing unless you are actually homeless rather than still stuck in a home with, for example, a violent partner.
The report cites a case where a man with "complex and ongoing mental health issues" was about to get evicted. He had been categorised as "High Needs" by the ACT government but "the average wait time on the High Needs waiting list is over 600 days".
Some young people can't demonstrate that they can pay a rent because they have no track record of having done so.
The lawyers' report says: "Social security recipients receiving Newstart Allowance, a payment which amounts to less than $40 a day, are, for the most part, completely locked out of the private rental market. Those fortunate enough to be allocated a place in public housing often faced significant challenges maintaining their tenancies."
Earlier in the year, Anglicare, the Anglican charity, said that there were only two properties in the whole country which were affordable for people on social security. "We found that no properties in any capital city were affordable for a single person on Youth Allowance or Newstart. In fact, there were only two properties across the entire country that were affordable for people on these payments," said its report.