University of Newcastle student Kastor Morgan, 19, says they never expected to have to spend Christmas in a refuge.
But after their share house in Birmingham Gardens became increasingly unsafe, that was exactly what happened to Kastor last December.
"It just shows homelessness can happen to anyone," the Wickham resident said.
Kastor, who identifies as non-binary or "not just male or just female", could not find another rental they could afford when they had to leave their former share house, for which they had been paying $110 per week. They had also been let go from their casual job earlier that year.
"One of the people I was living with I think was going through a stressful time and doing more drugs and became more unpredictable and aggressive," they said. "I had a knife held up to me at one point ... and there was a lot of verbal aggression.
"At first I was looking to find other share accommodation with friends, but because I was the only one who had been on a lease at that point it was really hard to get into a place. Then friends slowly started bailing and there was me and another person and we just couldn't find anything we could afford."
As a last resort Kastor went to Nova's refuge for women and children, whose staff directed the student to a Samaritans' youth refuge.
After the experience Kastor is calling on the federal government to increase study and job-seeker payments. Samaritans is also supporting the nation-wide "raise the rate" campaign to increase Newstart by at least $150 per fortnight.
"It's impossible to be on Youth Allowance or Newstart and have the funds to have safe, independent housing," Kastor said. "The rate of payment does not match the cost of living."
The student receives $700 a fortnight in payments: around $500 in Youth Allowance for students and $200 in disability support - Kastor has autism and suffers from bouts of depression.
The highest maximum Newstart payment for job seekers without dependents per fortnight is $559.
Kastor is studying full-time and now lives in Samaritans Student Accommodation. They hope to become a high school math teacher. While they count themselves lucky to have access to affordable accommodation, Kastor said they were concerned about others living on government payments without the same kind of support.
"I can't imagine where I'd be if I wasn't here," they said.
Increasing job seeker payments will be one of Hunter Workers' demands when members rally in Civic Park at midday on Friday for Anti-Poverty Week, which ends on Saturday.
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