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Sunshine Coast Catholic community rallies to aid the less fortunate after death in church grounds

Seminarian Josh Whitehead: “We have homeless and vulnerable people on our doorsteps throughout our parish communities who need our help. What can we do as a parish to assist them?”

THE death of a homeless man on the grounds of Maroochydore’s Stella Maris Church has sparked a groundswell of Sunshine Coast support to aid the homeless and vulnerable.

The death of a 31-year-old father, Brett, has galvanised the Stella Maris parish to create a new ministry for the marginalised, and has led another homeless man to reunite with his family.

“Out of the ashes of tragedy,” seminarian Josh Whitehead, who is attached to the parish, said.

“I couldn’t let this happen without something good coming from it.”

Five weeks ago, homeless man, Brett, was found dead on the grounds of the Stella Maris Church.

He was discovered by another homeless man.

Thirty-six-year-old Michael had also slept the night near the church and went to his mate Brett in search of a cup of coffee.

Efforts to save Brett were unsuccessful.

His death rocked the local community, and particularly Michael.

“Michael was absolutely distraught,” Mr Whitehead said. “Finding the body really affected Michael and over the next few weeks he spiralled into depression.”

When Mr Whitehead raised the homeless issue in the parish newsletter there was an overwhelming community response.

“We have homeless and vulnerable people on our doorsteps throughout our parish communities who need our help. What can we do as a parish to assist them?” he wrote in the parish newsletter.

ABC Radio’s local breakfast show picked up the tragic story of Brett’s death and interviewed Mr Whitehead , leading to an unexpected outcome.

“As luck would have it Michael’s mother and brother heard the interview,” Mr Whitehead said.

“They knew Michael was homeless but had no idea where he was sleeping.

“They contacted us at the parish office, his brother came by and took him off the streets.

“It has been an amazing intervention and, even better, Michael said he will work to wean himself off his prescription medication dependency.

“This is good news in every sense of the translation of the word ‘Gospel’.”

The Stella Maris parish has agreed to fund half the cost of a caravan where Michael can live on his brother’s property.

The parish community has taken to heart, not only the sad death of Brett, but the need to reach out to Maroochydore’s homeless and vulnerable.

Last week Stella Maris started a new ministry, with a Friday night barbecue for the homeless. It will become a regular event.

“The response from the parish community has been phenomenal,” Mr Whitehead said.

“We’ve got a full roster of volunteers, people have volunteered to help in material ways and generous donations have come in to give us a firm foundation to start the ministry.

“There’s been nothing but support. It’s galvanised the parish community into a sense of mission.”

Included in the all-in parish effort, Siena Catholic College, Sippy Downs will provide volunteers.

There’s been a surge in homelessness around Maroochydore in the past few years, with the Sunshine Coast recognised as having a shortage of emergency accommodation.

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