Have you ever seen Charlie and Max on their spot at Crown Street mall in Wollongong?
They are hard to miss. Max, with his glorious big brown eyes looking at you lovingly from his bed. Charlie giving him a cuddle or a scratch behind his ears. But maybe you've turned a blind eye? I hope not.
Charlie and his dog, Max, have been sleeping rough for four months. This week, the pair caught our attention - Max, with his pair of antlers and Charlie, with his twinkling eyes.
Our reporter and photographer were intrigued and wanted to learn more about these characters on an otherwise dull and dreary day. Max and Charlie made them smile, and they brought their tale back to the newsroom, and we have today told it to you.
Charlie is one of the 1,400 estimated people homeless in the Illawarra and the surroundings. His story is, unfortunately, all too familiar. Charlie split from his wife, then found himself out of work and, in turn, out of a home.
As Michelle Adair, from the Housing Trust mentioned in an article last month, circumstances can change for anyone, at any time.
For Charlie, that was four months ago.
There's likely no hope that Charlie will find a space in social housing any time soon. There are about 3500 people on the region's social housing waiting list, with waits estimated at 5-10 years, at best.
"The government stops counting after ten years. If you are an older person, like the vast majority of people living in social housing ... you will probably die waiting for a home," Adair said.
Charlie has secured a meal and some company for Christmas Day, but what about the other days of the year? Mandy Booker at the Wollongong Homeless Hub (WHH) is working hard to provide food hampers for rough sleepers over the festive season. The hampers give a little light for those without a home.
If Max and Charlie have melted your heart, then you can help by donating Christmas gifts to the WHH.
- Gayle Tomlinson