It's early Friday morning and a heavy fog has shrouded Lake Burley Griffin. A jogger emerges over Commonwealth Bridge. Traffic is building on Northbourne Avenue. Office workers look at their phone as they line up for coffee at a city cafe.
Wedged in an alcove near the cafe, a man starts to wake, his belongings shoved between the walls. He's almost out of sight, hiding from the cold. The apparent temperature overnight was as low as minus four degrees.
Along Northbourne Avenue, others sleeping rough start to wake. The tram glides by. Everyone is in a hurry.
Some of the homeless head to the Early Morning Centre, run by UnitingCare Canberra City, on the corner of Northbourne Avenue and Rudd Street. Here they will get breakfast. But, perhaps more importantly, also contact with someone who will talk to them and look them in the eye.
The centre's director Nicole Wiggins supervises volunteers giving out the breakfast, a process very different since COVID-19. The tables and chairs are mostly stacked away because of social distancing. Fewer people have been coming in during the pandemic, which is a worry to Ms Wiggins.
"The Early Morning Centre is a place for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness and people who are socially isolated or vulnerable in the community," she said.
Breakfast is provided on weekday mornings and a community hub in the afternoons. During COVID-19 about 30-35 people come in for breakfast, when it's usually 45-55. Fifty to 60 people would come in for lunch. Most days, they make "more than 100 cuppas".
"The breakfast is a very important part of the service but we're definitely not a food service," Ms Wiggins said.
"We're a community hub to connect people to services, to connect people with each other, to give people a safe, friendly place to come and mix with people, where they feel welcome and respected."
Winter is extremely tough in Canberra, not only because of the weather.
"It's very socially isolating. People feel very disconnected from the community," she said.
"People often talk about feeling invisible. People will often walk past and avoid eye contact. Although there are people who will approach someone on the street and ask them if they are OK and if they need something to eat. But in general, people would walk past without looking at them."
In bounds the Early Morning Centre's patron, media identity Tim Gavel. One of his jobs each morning is to drop in the bread donated by Brumby's at Lyneham. He is also a powerful asset for the centre, liaising with businesses for donations. The centre's defibrillator was donated by Canberra philanthropist Debbie Rolfe. The Tall Foundation run by Capital Chemist's Roger and Maxeme Tall has been generous. Capitol Chilled Foods donates the milk. Raiders legend Sia Soliola is a regular volunteer who comes in, without fanfare.
"He'll be here sweeping the floors and washing the dishes. So, it's a really community effort," Tim said.
Volunteers Aldo Cataldo and Lil Bryant-Johnson are in the kitchen preparing breakfast.
"It was just a really practical way to do something on the ground that is actually going to help other Canberrans," Ms Bryant-Johnson said, of signing up.
Mr Cataldo said the social interaction was critical and he was missing during coronavirus being able to care for clients in the same way, even if that meant just serving them at a table and talking about the centre's footing tipping competition.
"You kind of got that feeling that they were actually being looked after for a change," he said.
"It's just as satisfying for us. I feel fortunate to be a volunteer here."
Ms Bryant-Johnson said COVID-19 had definitely had an impact on how they operated.
"We can show them a lot more dignity if they can sit there and we can serve them in the warmth and now we have to say, 'we can't even touch you, here's the bag, pick it up'," she said.
For the coming months, Ms Wiggins said there were concerns about what happened after the rent moratorium, JobSeeker increase and JobKeeper wage subsidies ended.
"There's been a number of additional programs introduced to support the Canberra community and people doing it tough and we feel that's masking a problem, a tsunami that's yet to come," she said.
Ms Wiggins said Canberrans had been "extremely generous" to the Early Morning Centre.
"So many people are doing it tough and the Canberra community is so generous and so willing to help out," she said.
Hands Across Canberra has organised a public appeal for struggling charities and community organisations that couldn't fundraise over the last few months due to COVID-19 and the bushfires.
Chief executive Peter Gordon said the appeal would run throughout winter, but donations should be made by June 30 for tax deductions this financial year.
"The Hands Across Canberra Covid Recovery Appeal has generated an excellent response from our community," he said.
"The appeal was created in acknowledgement that local charities have not been able to fundraise at all this year. Hands Across Canberra supports over 250 local charities and 40 of them have joined in the appeal.
"So far, over $120,000 has been raised. Many charity partners have already exceeded their fundraising goals in the appeal but they are continuing to raise much needed money.
"[But] June 30 is coming and local charities need help now. "
- To donate to the Canberra Recovery Appeal go to handsacrosscanberra.org.au.