A VAN helping rough sleepers has made contact with 70 people in three months, more than half its target for the entire year.
Haven: Home, Safe's HeyVan began evening drives around Bendigo in March and organisers hoped to help 120 people throughout the year, a spokesperson said.
It had linked up with 43 men and 27 women sleeping rough so far, she said.
One person was sleeping in an abandoned chicken coop.
Most of those people did not disclose how long they had been homeless for.
The "vast majority" of those who did said they had been sleeping rough for a week or less, or for one to four weeks, the spokesperson said.
Ten people had been sleeping rough for six to 12 months, she said.
"We would consider that to be quite a long period," the spokesperson said.
Rough sleepers were a small, tight-knit community of people who look after each other and sometimes faced abuse from some members of the community, the Baptist Community Centre's Fiona Mummery said.
Some people had to repeatedly request new bedding or clothing from the centre because it had been stolen, or because people could not take all their property from one place to another, she said.
"I'm saddened, really, by some of the stories that I hear of about abuse on the streets, in regards to stealing their things and having no respect for them as people," she said.
One of the big issues they could face was finding places to secure their things, Ms Mummery said.
"The only place is the train station, if you pay $15 for a locker, people tell me," she said.
"The other side of this, I find, is that there is a lot of kindness between people on the street.
"There is a lovely community of people who look out for each other. That's really important for them.
"They are all in similar situations, experiencing similar things."
Ms Mummery did not want to paint a "bleak picture" about the extent of homelessness in Bendigo.
"The people who are in it are doing the best they can, and people in the community are supporting them as best we can. But there is no doubt that housing affordability is an issue," she said.
"There are people who are on such long waiting lists to get a place."
Homelessness rose slightly in Bendigo between 2001 and 2016, a new report into the changing nature of the issue has found.
Most of Australia's homeless people were staying at homeless shelters or couch-surfing, report co-author Deb Batterham said.
Rates have risen fastest in areas with shortages of affordable private rentals, especially in more populous states like Victoria and New South Wales.
"Even in regional areas like Bendigo, we still see a relationship between homelessness and supplies of affordable housing," Ms Batterham said.
"It's not as strong as in capital cities but it's still there."
Haven; Home, Safe often encountered people who had come up from Melbourne, the organisation's spokesperson said.
They hoped it would be easier to escape homelessness, but found that Bendigo's housing market presented its own issues.
People on Centrelink benefits were often hardest hit, Ms Mummery said, because landlords overlooked them in favour of others with jobs.
"That's a concern, that people often don't have a lot of choice around where they live. They either can't afford the rent or they just don't get a look-in," Ms Mummery said.
By 2016, capital cities accounted for two-thirds of the nation's homeless people, with more rough sleepers and severe overcrowding becoming a greater issue, the report found.
Higher homelessness rates were outpacing population growth in many metropolitan areas.
The Bendigo Baptist Community Centre had at least one or two people presenting to their services who were homeless Ms Mummery said, though she noted it was not the only support service in town.
Some were newly homeless, others had been living with it for longer, she said.
"There's a lot of reasons behind that (homelessness), but the bottom line seems to be around relationships," she said.
"It could be a falling out with somebody, drug or alcohol related or personal relationship issues - and domestic violence, that's a big one."
Ms Mummery said it could be hard to judge the breadth of homelessness in Bendigo because many of those fleeing domestic violence were put in crisis accommodation.
"They might not be homeless, as such, but they are at risk of becoming homeless," she said.
What was clear was that some people had no choice but to sleep in their cars or in quiet out-of-the-way areas, Ms Mummery said.
Bendigo shivered through its coldest day for the month of May this week, with winds from the Antarctic Plateau driving temperatures to near freezing.
Fourteen churches planned to begin offering 10 people sleeping rough shelter from Saturday.
"It's not manageable, at this stage, to look after any more than ten people," she said.
A different church will offer shelter every night through the Bendigo Winter Night Shelter, similar to a program already operating in Melbourne, Ms Mummery said.
Bendigo's HeyVan had been funded to continue for the rest of the year.
A Swan Hill "HeyYou-t" off-road outreach ute began operating in the Swan Hill area for two weeks and will be officially launched next Friday.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.