The annual Hunter Homeless Connect Day was a happy milestone for Rutherford 28-year-old Kimberly Shaw, who traveled to Newcastle Showground Exhibition Centre from a drug rehabilitation centre in Cessnock.
"This is my first day back in community," she said.
"I've been five months clean. It's a great feeling. I was two-and-a-half years on ice. I wasn't living, I was just existing. I'm feeling everything now."
More than 125 health, housing, employment, government, study and social support providers, as well as food vans, masseuses, musicians and a mobile laundromat, were present at the showground to offer free services to those doing it tough.
Set to complete her rehab program in two months, after previously spending four months in custody, Ms Shaw said the day was an opportunity for her to start planning for her future.
"I can't wait to get back into the workforce. I want to get back to a normal life," she said.
Over 40 hairdressers volunteered at the event, including 70-year-old Ron Harman of Toukley who has been a hairstylist and barber since he was 16.
"I've shut the shop. Now I just volunteer and train the young ones," he said.
Roslyn Go, of Maitland OPSM, was one of a legion of optometrists providing eye tests and glasses. It's her fourth year serving the event's clientele.
"Often its just that they've lost or broken glasses and can't afford to replace them," she said.
Robert Rigby, 72, was grateful for the service. Ms Go said he may need bifocals.
"It's been a long time since I had a test. I was just using chemist glasses," he said.
One guest, Susan Usher, 20, had recently found permanent accommodation after six months of homelessness.
She said she was thankful for services Nova for Women and Children and Samaritans Youth Services, both present at the event, who had helped get her "back on track".
"I'm hoping to finish TAFE and get a job. I want to become a beautician," she said.
Compass Housing Services' Michelle Faithfull, who has acted as coordinator of the event for three years, said the day was always a bittersweet affair.
She said a record 1300 guests attended the event this year.
"The vibe is always positive ... but then we have to do this event. Everyone here is homeless or in a rough spot. We're in a sad position that it's growing."
Robyn Lewis, 54, of Cardiff, who has overcome a 15-year ice dependency was one of the day's 50 volunteers.
"I came today because I want to help other people and share my story: that I have beaten addiction and I now lead a wonderful life."