When Peter* found himself in his own home after years of sleeping rough he felt like he had won the lottery.
He was re-homed as part of a "Housing First" program, which offers properties to those experiencing homelessness without conditions such as sobriety or income - barriers that would normally prevent people from attaining a property.
The ACT's Housing First pilot received a leg up from the territory government due to the coronavirus pandemic as funding allowed the program to be fast-tracked and expanded to help more people off the street.
Responses to the pandemic have showed homelessness was a problem that could be solved, advocates have said. But there are fears as to what will happen in October when funding may run dry and the JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments are reduced.
'Our response to COVID-19 shows that we do not need to accept it'
The Housing First two-year pilot program was announced for the ACT last year in a partnership between CatholicCare and the ACT government. CatholicCare manages and provides the wrap-around support while Housing ACT provides the properties.
The program, called Axial Housing, has re-homed 22 people since it started and an additional eight people have been approved and are waiting for their property.
The two-year pilot was expanded due to the coronavirus pandemic. Originally, it was supposed to house 20 people but the ACT government boosted support to the program with a $100,000 grant to allow 32 places.
"We'll have 32 people who were sleeping rough in the streets of Canberra in permanent housing... it's a fantastic outcome for those 32 people, it's wonderful," CatholicCare Canberra and Goulburn chief executive Anne Kirwan said.
Responses to the coronavirus pandemic showed Australia could end rough sleeping according to Australian Alliance to End Homelessness chief executive David Pearson. But he said action was needed to prevent people from ending up back on the streets.
"We now know that many hundreds of rough sleepers who were temporary sheltered have started falling back into homelessness for a variety of reasons including a lack of support and/or permanent housing options," he said.
"It is not normal to see people sleeping on the streets and in parks. Our response to COVID-19 shows that we do not need to accept it and can end rough sleeping homelessness."
Mr Pearson said housing first programs could be the key to eliminating homelessness. It came as the organisation has called for the government to create a coordinated package to end rough sleeping.
ACT Shelter chief executive Travis Gilbert told an online forum held by the AAEH last week programs the territory had implemented had delivered great outcomes but he worried what would happen when government funding ran out in October.
"We really need to see government commit to these programs that are delivering really great outcomes and have really brought a number of services closer together in terms of the way they engage collaborative referrals," he said.
"It's really cold in Canberra in winter and people have now had a chance to be placed somewhere warm and comfortable and if the funding is not recurrent it's a little bit worrying for some of our service providers in terms of where we go next.
"We've got a private rental market that is nudging $600 a week for the median price of a three-bedroom and nudging $500 a week for a two-bedroom apartment."
'No where to stay because everybody was told to self-isolate'
In April, the ACT government announced it would support homelessness and domestic violence services as part of a $3 million package.
As part of this it would provide funding to organisations to provide referrals, crisis accommodation and the refurbishment of existing public housing.
Support service OneLink received $100,000 as part of the funding to boost its capacity for referrals. Woden Community Service director of housing and community engagement Kim Spinks said demand for brokerage of temporary housing had increased.
"People had been asked to leave houses where up to date they may have couch surfed or been an extra in the household, people in that scenario were presenting," she said.
The $100,000 grant for CatholicCare to speed-up its Housing First pilot was also part of this.
Ms Kirwan said while the measures had met existing demand it remained unclear whether this would cover the September decrease of the federal government's wage subsidies.
"The strategies the government has put in place has worked really well to meet the existing demand. As this pandemic continues it will be interesting to see when some of those initiatives drop off, like JobKeeper and JobSeeker... then it will be interesting to see if there is a marked impact on our sector," she said.
"The initiatives the government has put in means we can actually respond to the demand that is there, if there is a flow-on effect into our sector well we will certainly be asking the government to put in place additional initiatives to meet the new needs that might be coming through."
For those experiencing homelessness, they have faced many issues during the pandemic. Beyond rough sleepers, those couch surfing, living in temporary lodgings or in severely crowded dwellings have had to contend with social distancing requirements.
"What COVID-19 has done for people who are in tenancies they don't control has pushed them into actually having no where to stay because everybody was told to self-isolate," YWCA Canberra chief executive Frances Crimmins said.
YWCA Canberra runs a program called Next Door, which provides support to women over 50 who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness and helps to find a home or maintain an existing tenancy.
Ms Crimmins said the program was funded to help 15 women but in the year it has operated it had support 80 women.
During the pandemic, Ms Crimmins said a number of women who had been house sitting prior to the pandemic had found themselves without accommodation.
"We've had about a dozen women who have been professional house sitters who house sit for all those who are lucky to go on three and four month holidays," she said.
"Suddenly we're not travelling and we have seen an increase in women needing support."
Ms Crimmins said the ACT could have been more agile in its response and said it was important to provide continued to support to those experiencing homelessness.
"I do truly believe we can provide housing for everybody and if we can't do it here in the ACT in Canberra, I think that's a sad indictment on our community, particularly when you are talking about single older women, I think any community that lets any older person become homeless is not the type of community we think we are," she said.
*Not his real name.