Emmanuel City Mission, located in a warehouse on Merivale Street in South Brisbane, has been providing sustenance and respite for its visitors since opening its doors in 2013.

Each week, 1000 meals, 150 shower packs, and 100 loads of washing are provided, as well as supportive conversations that aim to bring healing and hope to visitors.

On arriving at Emmanuel just before lunch last Wednesday, my overwhelming sense was of a peaceful sanctuary. People were getting ready for lunch. Jill the cook told me she was preparing a dish by Nigella Lawson, replacing the porchetta with bacon, but otherwise true to the recipe. Volunteers were helping out in the kitchen, visitors were sitting on benches or at tables, some in conversation, and one was playing guitar and singing softly.

Workers mingled amongst the visitors, and there was a sense of ease between people; nothing seemed forced or overly cheerful. 

Visitors and staff celebrated with 24-year-old volunteer Dave, who came to the centre on his birthday, presenting him with a cake and singing Happy Birthday before grace and lunch.

Tim Noonan at Emmanuel City Mission
Tim Noonan, Emmanuel City Mission

I talked to Tim Noonan, the new operations manager at Emmanuel, a job he moved into after resigning from his lucrative job as a partner with Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Tim told me that every week, the Mission provides 1000 nutritious meals to ‘visitors’ – the name the Mission gives to all those coming to the service.

With no funding from the Government, Emmanuel has forged close relationships with the corporate and school communities with partners such as Queensland Cricket Club, the Mosaic Building Group and Brisbane Convention Centre. 

Volunteers from local high schools, including St Laurence’s, Churchie, Mansfield State High School, Padua, and Villanova Colleges, also support the service, often providing the makings for the meals and serving and helping in the kitchen.

Emmanuel is the inspiration of Roby Curtis, who himself was inspired by the work of Mother Teresa. In 2013, Roby converted the old warehouse into this busy daytime refuge for people experiencing homelessness in South Brisbane.

One of the visitors, Kylie, told me that she got clean and off the street about a year ago and is now engaged to be married and has stable accommodation.

“This place is full of love, doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from.” 

Kylie’s partner, Jeffrey, said Emmauel is like a family.

“When you’re on the street you have nobody because you lose your own family. It teaches you what it is to have a family… the easiest way to break addiction is love.”

Tim says once someone is living with homelessness, it is hard to break the cycle, and getting a job can be critical. That is why having a place where people can shower, and wash clothes is so important. Tim spoke of one man who got a job in construction, and he thanks Blue Heeler Boots for providing him with some steel-capped boots for the job.

“They need these little things like protective equipment. Another thing they need that they don’t have when they’re living rough is someone to give them a pat on the back and say, “Hey, how was your first week of work?” If they come here and they feel they belong, there’s encouragement when you first get back into the workforce.”

Emmanuel is part of a network of local services supporting people living with homelessness and works closely with Brisbane Common Ground, Micah Projects, and West End Community House. The service is part of the Emmanuel Community, a lay-led Catholic mission community in the Archdiocese of Brisbane.

“This is an open-door safe place free of judgement.” Roby says. “… we have worked hard to build a culture based on kindness and respect… It provides a sense of empowerment, belonging and dignity, that some have not had for a long time.”

Roby Curtis, Dir, Emmanuel City Mission
Roby Curtis, Dir, Emmanuel City Mission

Homelessness can happen to anyone. One of the visitors, Brent, told me said he had lost his home due to a workplace injury and being unable to work for a couple of weeks. He now lives in a tent and comes to the Mission daily for meals, respite, and to charge his phone. He hopes to find work.

Christmas Closure

Like a number of other local services with paid staff, Emmanuel will be closed for a Christmas break from 25 December and restarts on Sunday 7 January.

Emmanuel closes at set times during the year to manage staff leave, health & wellbeing, and training and development. 

It is important to enable us to have the right number of qualified, trained, and experienced people working on any day. It would be great to be able to not do this but with so few staff this is the optimal way for us to operate at the moment,” Tim said.

“Caring for our visitors is the core of our mission. Managing the closures is something we take seriously and plan for. When we are heading into closure time, we do our best to make sure our visitors know (personally and on our big screen ‘notice board’) and we communicate with our partner organisations.”

Meals at Emmanuel City Mission
Lunch at Emmanuel City Mission

Where to find help during Christmas closures.

Jack Keegan from Brisbane Coffee Brigade provides a regular update on all inner Brisbane Free food locations and times. Emmanuel publishes any change of time in advance with Jack so people know where else they can go to get some tucker. Word of mouth (“the grapevine”) within the street community is also an important communication channel for our visitors.

“It’s not a perfect situation but given the constraints on staffing, it’s the best way at the moment. It’d be a blessing to have more trained and experienced staff to call on,” Tim said.

Support Services – Christmas 2023

Please refer to this list from the Brisbane Coffee Brigade for all services over Christmas.


If you are interested in volunteering with Emmanuel, check the details HERE.


The Mission says the costs of living crisis and housing shortages are adding to the burdens of vulnerable people, and they encourage people to consider giving to the EMC Christmas appeal.