'This is not a trendy thing you do for a week and turn into a social media post.'

This week, the Pope called on parishes to take in refugee families – but what’s it like to open up your home and heart to people fleeing their homeland?

Jarrod McKenna has shared his home with refugees for 11 years.

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“People are looking at Germany saying ‘wow, look at what they are doing’. But there are lots of  beautiful examples of people being welcoming here. The Australia we dream of is already happening.”

Dinner. Source: Facebook First Home Project

Here's how it happened for him.

In 2004 Jarrod was at church. (He confesses to being "an embarrassing God-botherer who loves Jesus so much I make other Christians blush.")  He realised he was studying the words of history's most famous refugee on a Sunday, then not caring about people in the same position on Mondays. He began visiting a young man in detention and then, after the man tried to take his own life, at a mental health facility.

Related: What a 6-year-old refugee packs when he runs for his life.

Realising that refugees need a safe sanctuary on release from detention, Jarrod, his wife Teresa Lee and their son set out to help provide just that. They found a 1970s Gospel Church that had been an Aboriginal centre, a childcare centre and then, after being abandoned by a property developer, a seedy meth lab. It was in Midland - the Perth suburb that is the last stop on the train heading east. Using crowd funding to help with the mortgage, Jarred and Teresa bought it. They first welcomed one refugee into their home, then slowly learnt what was needed.

They still live at what is now the First Home Project centre, sharing it with an Afghan family of seven and several young Hazara guys who have come out of community detention. But they are not the only ones who have opened up their home.

Jarrod says "there is something contagious about compassion; friends bought the house next door to join the project and others rented in the same street. Another group moved in to volunteer to teach English and conduct driving lessons for the refugees. The street now has five homes with 24 refugees, not to mention a number of chickens, ducks and gallahs that wander around."

Once an old meth lab - now a home. Source Facebook First Home Project

The families who have lived with them have come from war zones of Africa and the Middle East.

"They just need a fair go, they deserve standing ovations instead of imprisonment."

Jarrod says other locals help in other ways. Some play cricket with the refugees, others help with homework club. The young men living in the First Home Project are getting assistance in buying their first car, finding a soccer club and getting a leg up in the difficult rental market.

Picnic. Source Facebook First Home Project

It sounds warm and fuzzy and lovely, but Jarrod McKenna warns that offering up your home needs to be done with careful care, planning and best practice strategies.

Related: ‘The issues we argue about now that I predict we’ll say sorry for in the future.’

"Refugees are in very vulnerable situations," he said. "They need safety, if there are other agendas other than a safe place, a warm community you are doing them a massive disservice. This is not a trendy thing you do for a week and turn into a social media post. People need friends to walk alongside them for a long time. It is not about your need to be needed. It takes real skills in management and cross cultural conflict. It's taken us more than 10 years to be able to support a number of families."

One of the many families

Yet it's clear there are massive rewards. One night a week the First Home Project hosts a party for asylum seekers.  The refugees take turns to cook and are now inviting homeless people to come for dinner.

Dinner. Source Facebook First Home Project

Jarrod McKenna says it's incredible to watch refugees cook for other. One week the food is traditional Hazara food, then Persian, Afghan, Burundi - and it's a proud moment for the chef to share their own culture.

"That's what Advance Australia Fair means to me."

We will talk to him more on our Debrief Daily podcast later in the week.