"Living out of the car, it's not real good. Not real happy. It's depressing most of the time. You don't feel like you've got a life at all most of the time. No one really cares, the world don't care. I'm trying my best."
Troy Hurst and his wife, Pauline Thomas, have been living out of their Camry, sleeping in a tent and couch-surfing for the past six years, the same length of time they have been on the social housing waiting list.
They are two of the 1190 people on the list in Newcastle. Another 960 are waiting in Lake Macquarie, 619 in Maitland, 205 in Cessnock, 135 in Port Stephens and 225 in Muswellbrook and Singleton.
The state government's Family and Community Services website says the "expected" waiting time is two to five years for a one-bedroom property in Newcastle, five to 10 years for a two- or three-bedroom dwelling and more than 10 years for a four-bedroom house.
It is a similar picture, if not worse, elsewhere in the state.
For Mr Hurst and Ms Thomas, who are both on the disability pension, the wait has become an interminable cycle of illness, depression and dislocation.
Read more: Poor philosophy at root of housing crisis
Mr Hurst, 54, worked as a scientific glassblower and die setter until he injured his back 12 years ago.
"I worked all my life until the age of 40 when I did my back in, and that was it. Now I'm 54 and homeless, heart attack and everything else, and I'm going, 'What happened to life?'" he said.
"Without a house, sleeping around in the cold weather is not doing any of us any good. I don't have a safe place for me and my wife to live in. We're going to possibly die out here."
Mr Hurst is on seven medications for his heart and back problems, and Ms Thomas suffers from the lung condition emphysema.
They left Bega six years ago looking for accommodation and have spent time camping on the Central Coast and in the Watagan mountains. They arrived in Newcastle last year but have endured repeated knock-backs looking for a private rental.
"Each town I came along, there was still nowhere to live. Everything's over $300," Mr Hurst said.
"We don't get much on the pension. People think we get a lot, but we don't.
"Being homeless isn't easy. We spend most of our money on petrol to try and find places to live.
"If you're working, it's OK, but I've had a heart attack, a broken back, I've had my skull crushed and I'm living in a car."
The couple have two dogs, which Mr Hurst says have helped keep him alive during difficult times when he has contemplated self-harm.
"Having dogs, it does limit you. We don't have bad rental history; we just haven't rented for years.
"I get depression real severe. I've had breakdowns. It's been worse since we've been homeless. I'm glad I do have the dogs. They keep me happy. They cuddle up with me at night."
The couple spoke to the media on Thursday at Carrington as part of a Labor campaign to convince the government to spend more on social and affordable housing.
Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness Ryan Park said the state should invest directly in social housing and set targets for social and affordable housing when selling off land for development.
"Otherwise we are going to see developers get very, very wealthy," he said.
"We're going to see people like Troy and Pauline continue to be at the end of the rung."
The government's two-year-old Communities Plus program aims to increase the stock of social housing in NSW by 23,000, though the only project listed in the Hunter is a modest redevelopment at Glendale.
The Social and Affordable Housing Fund has allocated 25-year contracts to housing providers across the state aiming to establish 3400 new social and affordable homes as part of the government's pledge to halve homelessness by 2025.
September 2018 figures on the FACS website showed the scheme would generate 792 new or converted houses across the Hunter, Central Coast and New England. The website has not been updated since a second round of contracts at the end of last year.
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said the government had sold off $15 million in social housing in Newcastle in the past four years, including at Bar Beach and Stockton, and its schemes were a "drop in the ocean" compared with the homelessness problem.
Data from the 2016 Census showed homelessness had increased by 12 per cent in Newcastle since 2011.
Mr Hurst, who said he and his wife had "never been on drugs", offered a harrowing account of what it felt like to fall through the cracks of social housing services.
"We wake up in the car and we usually go to the supermarket and pick up something to eat. Then we'll have to find somewhere where we're comfortable to sit down.
"Then we'll have to go round and look for some more real estates. There's only so many we can go to with the fuel we've got.
"There's not much we can do for the rest of the day. We sit down somewhere. We don't have a TV. If we want to watch TV, we'll go to the pub and sit down, but you've got no money to have a drink.
"You've just got to survive. You've got to go buy bottles of water and keep them in the car so you've got some fresh water.
"Toilets, you've got to find somewhere with public toilets, and a lot of them get locked up overnight, so if you're busting during the night, you have to go somewhere.
"Sometimes we have lunch. Sometimes we don't even bother. We're busy or we're just plain too exhausted. Other times we don't eat dinner. It's just like, 'I can't be bothered going to look for a park too far away.'
"We'll pack up the tent and tarp and go and stay up in the mountains. You can't have a fire because it's fire season.
"Constantly right now it's petrol. You spend all your money running around looking for somewhere to stay, somewhere to sleep, where to go to get your next bit of food.
"You can only get meat for one night. You can't keep anything in the car.
"I'm at my wit's end. I hope things get better and people like me and my missus aren't out on the street. At 54 years old, I can't believe they're not helping people of my age with disabilities get into a place.
"You apply to real estate after real estate and you just get slapped in the face. 'You can't afford this. You don't have enough rental references.'
"I feel ashamed, humiliated. I feel like I've done something wrong. I feel unworthy of being able to support my missus when I can't get us into a place. I've had a couple of breakdowns.
"How do I know I'm not going to have a heart attack and they're not going to wake up the next day and find me dead in my car. Then what's my missus going to do? Where is she going to go?
"You wake up daunted every day going, 'What am I going to do today? Where am I going to go?' I have no one to visit. I don't know any friends I can go and stay with."
Mr Hurst, whose son lives in a "$240-a-week garage" in Newcastle, said most people were "too busy in their own lives" to offer compassion to the homeless.
"They've got the house, they've got the cars, they've got their jobs. They're not worried about driving past, 'Look at that homeless person. How disgusting's that.'
"Not, 'I wonder if that guy's got a house. I wonder how he's surviving.'"
But he said Newcastle people were "better than anywhere else".
"I had a little breakdown out the front of Smith Family and a lady walked out and grabbed my hand like that and walked off, and I looked in my hand and she gave me $20.
"Another lady overheard what we said and she actually bought us some food. We were rapt. Nowhere I've been around Australia has anyone helped like that."
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