DAMIEN often lies awake at night, afraid that the house he is squatting in may be broken into. The Melton resident, his partner and three children have been without a home for four weeks.
They are the human face of the region's public housing crisis.
Housing Department data shows an additional 223
clients from Melton and Moorabool registered at the Sunshine and Ballarat regional offices last quarter, an increase of 9.1 per cent.
The total number of residents on the waiting list for the two offices is 4683.
There are 633 public housing dwellings in Melton.
Damien, who didn't want his last name published, said Alissa and their children had been 'couch surfing' with friends since they were evicted from a rental property.
The abandoned house where he is now squatting has broken sewerage and is unhygienic.
A leaking upstairs shower in the property they formerly rented was like a "cascading waterfall" from above.
"We were told that because of the repair needed, no rent was to be taken and we took this on good faith," Damien said.
"After requesting the repair that was causing the unliveable and unhygienic conditions, we were issued a non-payment-of-rent notice.
It was their way of evicting us because we were refused when we tried to pay our rent."
Damien - who has Marfan's syndrome, a condition causing connective tissue to be defective and affecting heart and blood vessels - said he feared the family's inability to secure accommodation was taking a toll on their health. His partner suffers from arthritis.
"I don't want to live out the rest of my days like this," he said. "In the country we're in, we shouldn't have people on the street or sick people squatting."
Damien said the family had sought help from a Melton support service but was turned away because no accommodation was available.
"The caravan park where emergency housing is usually suggested is full. As a dad, you try to do the right thing and when you can't provide a roof over their heads ... it's hard."
Melton Labor MP Don Nardella said public housing waiting lists for Melton and Moorabool were "a disgrace". He said the number of people in need of accommodation continued to rise,
and he accused the government of failing to invest in public housing.
Mr Nardella said cases like Damien's highlighted "the abandonment of those at risk".
"This year, no new public housing was purchased or built in Victoria. It is an awful situation," he said. "Housing should be a priority for the state government. Real money should be spent in this area; that's the only answer."
Housing Minister Wendy Lovell said statewide public housing data showed a significant fall in applications in the June quarter.
The total number of applicants fell by 947, from 37,887 to 36,940.
"We still have work to do, but our proactive approach has seen the waiting list fall by 4272, from 41,212 to 36,940, since November 2010," she said.
"We have reviewed vacancy rates, turnover procedures and times, and are working harder with applicants who have been waiting the longest."