A young couple inspiring others

Posted on 03 June 2015 by Louise Carson

If you watched SBS’s Struggle Street, you may have glimpsed two people who run a Kids Club after school at a Sydney community centre.

Their names are Emma and Joe, an inspiring young couple who are fast becoming local heroes.

Not only do they run the Kids Club, but they also job-share a teacher’s aide role at a local primary school and are MacKillop’s new Lead Tenants at a youth residential home.

This house is part of MacKillop’s Youth Homelessness Service, an integrated service supporting young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. At the moment, Emma and Joe support a group of three local youths aged 16-19 years who are in their final year of school.

So what drives two young people to devote so much time to transforming the lives of the young people in their care?

Joe, aged 28, grew up in England to an English father and Australian mother. In 2008 he decided to explore the world and ended up in Sydney, where he started studying at Hillsong College.

Emma, aged 26, hails from a small town in Canada near Niagara Falls. At age 19, she felt the urge to explore the world and a new path in life beyond her small home town, so in 2008 she also left home to study at Hillsong to become a children’s pastor.

The rest, as they say, is history. Emma and Joe met at Hillsong, fell in love and married in 2012.

“Soon after we married we moved here to live and work with young people in the area”, said Emma. “We love the diversity of the Western Sydney community.”

“Then, at the start of this year, MacKillop approached us to become Lead Tenants. We were already active in the community, so we embraced the opportunity. We want to be able to provide a safe place for kids who need help – a place for them to experience a true home environment. The home provides support, healing and the opportunity to grow and move forward with their lives.”

“Many of the teens we work with have experienced domestic violence, which usually results in forced homelessness”, said Joe. “Drugs and alcohol also play their part, while others come from a refugee background.”

Lead Tenants live rent-free in a MacKillop house with young people, usually aged 16-18 years. They are not paid workers.

Their role is to act as positive role models for the young tenants, both in managing their day-to-day routines and commitments, and more broadly in their personal conduct within the house and the community. Lead Tenants provide general direction, encouragement and support within the household, through leading by example.

“We are lucky to know what we want out of life and we have a solid vision for our future,” said Emma.

“Some people measure success by a bigger house, the best car. For us it is to help young people find success in their own lives – that is our trophy. If we are able to continue this work, it will make us very happy and fulfilled.”

To learn more about becoming a MacKillop Lead Tenant, visit the volunteer section of our website.