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Melbourne is one of the most liveable cities in the world. Try sleeping rough on a cold, wet night in June and you wouldn’t think so. The streets can be dark and dangerous at night, but before Emma came to Lighthouse, they were her home.

Emma is a clever, energetic young woman, full of potential. At 18, she has already decided she wants to give back and is studying early childhood education. Her future didn’t always look so bright though.

Over 1 million Australian children have been impacted by domestic violence, and it’s one of the most common reasons that young people become homeless.

Emma’s abuse started when she was six, with her stepfather breaking her wrist. As she grew older the violence became more frequent and extended to include psychological and sexual abuse. Emma was convinced that this was all she was worth and that she deserved everything she got. She was traumatised and for many years she believed she was to blame.

Emma kept on living in fear for as long as she could. But after a particularly severe bashing when she was 15 she left to take her chances on her own.

“When I was younger I used to hide in the cupboard and hope he wouldn’t find me when he came home angry and drunk. Once I got too big for that I would go out to the park ‘round the corner and stay there until it got late enough to sneak back in. After that last time I just couldn’t go back.”

Lighthouse provides a safe home, along with the love and therapeutic care that kids like Emma need to recover from childhood trauma.

Last year Emma completed her first placement as part of her course and she showed a real sense of pride when talking about the young lives she is helping to shape. She is a completely different girl from the one we met 18 months ago.

Her carer, Peter, reflected on Emma’s journey:

“When I met Emma she was quiet and withdrawn. She had no self confidence and did everything she could to avoid being noticed. It took a while for her to come out of her shell, even in the home, but eventually she started to open up. Gaining trust and getting our young people to share how they are feeling is such an important part of their journey to recovery and that can only happen when they feel truly loved and valued in our community.”

At Lighthouse Emma has found more than just a roof over her head, she has unlocked her potential for a better life. Young people who have slept on the streets before they turn 25 are far more likely to experience prolonged, persistent homelessness as adults. By breaking the cycle and coming in from the cold, these young people are increasingly likely to finish school, take up tertiary study, and engage with employment.

Because of donations from generous supporters like you, we have seen hundreds of young people like Emma rebuild their lives and take their rightful place in the community. Please click here to donate online now.