DISCOVERING that homelessness existed in Australia was confronting for Ballarat man Neil Para.
Mr Para and his family fled Ceylon, Sri Lanka, for Australia in 2012, and did not expect to find a country with poverty and homelessness due to its status as a first world country.
He first became aware of the high levels of homelessness in Australia when he was one day faced with a question about how Australia could care for refugees when it could not look after its own people, with so many living on the streets.
Mr Para was shocked to learn of people living on the streets of Melbourne and Ballarat, many struggling to find shelter and food.
All these years since arriving, Mr Para, his wife Sugaa and three young daughters Nivash, Kartie and Nive are still in limbo as they struggle to receive protection from the Australian government.
He understands the plight and desperation of the homeless, given that his own family was homeless for a couple of weeks before arriving in Ballarat.
So though their citizenship status remains uncertain, the family have had the extensive support of the Ballarat community, who have been fully supporting them financially since their work and study rights were removed in 2013.
Mr Para believes there is a stigma around people facing destitution and homelessness and though his family has been supported, many are not.
He has since spent a lot of time talking with the homeless to understand their circumstances and though he still does not understand how a country as wealthy as Australia has so many people living without a roof over their heads, he hopes his photo exhibition will help to break down the stigma.
He now understands there is not much separating the homeless from the rest of us and hopes his exhibition will allow visitors to walk in the shoes of a homeless person.
Mr Para first became interested in photography when he attended the Australia Day Fireworks in 2015 and saw the Lal Lal Photography Group in action. Since then, he has applied himself to learning all about photography and building on his skills.
Without A Roof: The Homeless is his first exhibition and displays photographs and stories of people living on the streets of Ballarat and Melbourne.
Alongside each photograph of a person, Mr Para has included a photograph of nature. By doing so, he hopes to draw a parallel between nature, which is enjoyed everyday, and homelessness.
"People take the time to go out to a park or on a picnic and see the scenery so I hope that by putting them together, people will think about the homeless after seeing this when out in nature," he said.
A potted plant sits alongside one of the display boards of photographs. Next to the plant is an empty shelf, where another plant could sit. The empty space represents the closed buildings in Ballarat and the difficulty in accessing affordable housing.
The exhibition runs from June 10 to 23 - coinciding with Refugee Week - at Ballarat Trades Hall from 10am - 5pm.
Entry is free but donations are welcome.