Lachlan Furnell, from the Queensland Cricketers Club; Jeff Hoffard (carrying a walking stick crafted by Indigenous artist Lloyd Martin), Lisa Forbes, Auxiliary Bishop Tim Norton and ECM director and and founder Roby Curtis

March 28, 2024

Pilgrims on a journey to raise $250,000 for a vital homeless shelter in Brisbane walked into Kingaroy on Thursday on Day 6 of a week-long trek to Cherbourg.

The Emmanuel Pilgrimage aims to raise funds to support the ongoing work of the Emmanuel City Mission (ECM), a day-shelter currently working out of a warehouse in South Brisbane.

The walkers – including Tim Norton, the Auxiliary Bishop for the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane – left Brisbane at 4:00am on Saturday.

They overnighted at Lowood, Toogoolawah, Linville, Blackbutt and Nanango and will be spending Thursday night at Wondai before finishing their trek at Cherbourg on Good Friday.

So far the pilgrimage has raised almost $133,000 but more funds are still needed to cover the ongoing day-to-day operational costs of ECM.

This is the second time a walk to Cherbourg has been organised; last year’s event raised $143,000.

Operations manager Tim Noonan said ECM was founded 14 years ago as a street mission by Roby Curtis, who is part of the team of walkers.

Ten years ago, it moved into a warehouse space to offer a “day sanctuary” which opens daily at 7:00am.

Visitors can have a shower, do their laundry and are offered a home-cooked meal at noon.

There is also free clothing available as well as take-away food. Guests can also stretch out on padded benches to take a nap …

Tea and coffee – including barista-style coffees – greet them when they arrive in the morning after spending the night sleeping rough under a bridge, by the river or in Musgrave Park.

Tim said ECM currently helps about 150 people every day, without receiving any State or Federal funding.

About 35 per cent of its guests are First Nations, with many having a family connection to Cherbourg which is why the community was chosen as the pilgrims’ destination.

Tim said demand on ECM had grown substantially over the past 18 months.

The number of hot lunches provided every week had ballooned from about 600 to 1500.

“We are also now seeing a lot more women,” Tim said.

“The number of women has tripled from 10 per cent to 30 per cent.”

Tim said the people they helped had all the same issues in the population at large – including mental health problems and drug and alcohol addictions – but had become separated from their friends and families.

There was also people caught up in the “cycle of incarceration” which occurred when they were released from prison with a few dollars and little else.

ECM has about 150 active volunteers helping out, and also receives support from a number of schools.

“However, we couldn’t survive without our corporate groups,” Tim said.

Amongst these are the Renegade Roasters who support ECM’s free coffees, and the Queensland Cricketers Club which donates 330 litres of milk every week.

ECM will soon be on the move themselves, shifting on July 1 from the warehouse space to a nearby former homeless shelter in Merivale Street, literally just down the road.

  • Donations to support the ECM Pilgrimage can be made online
The walkers, led by Jeff Hoffard carrying a specially crafted walking stick and Bishop Tim Noonan, head down Youngman Street in Kingaroy on Thursday
Some of the support crew, who have also taken turns at walking … Luke Wilson, Max Bain, Lucas McArthur, Mick McDade and ECM operations manager Tim Noonan (with Daisy)


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