THE first time Clinton Raggatt slept on the streets, he was 10 years old.
He had run away from home, trying to escape some of its problems; poverty, exposure to alcohol abuse, neglect, and later - violence.
"It was really scary, I ended up going home - crying," he said. "As a kid I had lived in caravans all over the place, I was dragged around pubs.
"And from the age of six, we were living off sugar - eating sugar - because there wasn't much else around."
Mr Raggatt, now 45, said he had been discliplined with a "hard hand," and had become violent himself.
He had worked. He had made mistakes.
He had been in and out of prison. In and out of addiction.
About seven years ago, he started sleeping rough in Sydney, Tasmania, then Newcastle.
"You tend to find behind everyone's story, they've had some happenings in their life where they can't resolve things," he said. "People become a bit lost in the world. They become lost in who they are supposed to be, who they are meant to be with, and who they are themselves.
"I'm not proud of some of the decisions I've made, I'm not proud of some of the drugs I've taken. But I am proud that I haven't given up."
Mr Raggatt had slept in different nooks around Newcastle, rising just before the sun came up to roll up his swag of belongings and find a public shower.
"Every now and then, when I got back to where I had been sleeping, someone would have left a blanket out for me. They just... understood," he said, choking back tears. "It's hard to accept the kindness of strangers, but it's beautiful to see people like that out there."
He is now living in a shed.
"People who are on the streets... most of them have some sort of dependency, whether it's drugs or alcohol - something to help them deal with why they're there," he said. "There is a lot of anger. A lot of trauma. A lot of mental health issues. I used to sleep with one eye open. It can be scary, and it can get very territorial. But there is a freedom on the street that you can't get living under a roof where you're paying a lot of rent.
"I needed a lot of questions answered in my life. I got my answers, but it's been a hard road.
"It breaks my heart even having to come and ask these people [at Soul Cafe] for help.
"It hurts my pride. But I am grateful for what they do. They give me hope. Hope and faith are so important."
Soul Cafe Newcastle's annual report shows the number of meals provided to vulnerable people in the city had increased by 45 per cent in the past four years.
In the 2018-2019 financial year, they had served 745 meals on average each week - up 15.8 per cent from the previous year.
Soul Cafe chief executive Rick Prosser said all of the information they had collected showed "increased trends" for their services.
Every week, on average, 2.2 people presented at Soul cafe "newly homeless".
"That's shocking," he said. "When your graph charts keep going up, and pretty alarmingly, it's representative of other deeper needs in our community as well, and the needs aren't decreasing, they are not even stabilising, they are increasing.
"Everything we operate off is to help people in their place of vulnerability - whether that be homelessness or mental health issues, people struggling financially, or people in addictions.
"It's a vast net that we catch with, and the reality of it is that it is all very tragic."
The report showed the Soul Mental health Clinic had helped 133 guests on 480 occasions, with 68 per cent of men, and 32 per cent of women, seeking its services.