Heartbroken friends of Jesse Scholes say more support needed

Lives lost: Jesse Scholes, 27, with his mum Veronica, who died from lung cancer.

Lives lost: Jesse Scholes, 27, with his mum Veronica, who died from lung cancer.

A LIFELONG friend of the man found dead in his car in Ballarat on Friday night, has called for more support services for people experiencing housing stress to prevent others from enduring the same fate.

Jesse Scholes, 27, was found dead in his car with his girlfriend Shannon Knowles and dog, on Friday night, just before 9.30pm. 

Police believe a butane gas heater the pair were using to keep warm may have contributed to their deaths. 

His friend of more than 20 years John Byrnes said his friends had been heartbroken by his death.

“He wasn’t just my mate, he was my brother,” he said. “The fact is, he wasn’t homeless. He has so many friends who loved him and people who would have taken him in, he chose to stay in his car because he didn’t want to be a burden to people. He was proud, he didn’t know where to go for the help that he needed.”

Mr Byrnes said up until six weeks ago, Mr Scholes was the full-time carer for his mum Veronica, who died from lung cancer.

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Mr Byrnes said his mum was his life and her death had affected him deeply.

“He was having a very rough time in the weeks before he died,” he said. “Her death devastated him and he was a bit of a lost soul. But every time you would see him he would always have the biggest smile on his face. He was just such a good, loyal mate, he’d do anything for you.”

Mr Byrnes said after his mum’s death Mr Scholes stayed with a friend, but when his friend was evicted from his home Mr Scholes was also kicked out.

The last time he saw him was on Thursday morning.

“He was just the same as he always was,” Mr Byrnes said. “He was with Shannon and they were going to spend the day together, he loved her so much.”

He said the stigma attached to homelessness meant people are often too afraid to reach out.

“If you don’t have support in place this is what happens,” he said. “You’d be a fool to think these are the only two young people in this situation, it happens every day. It happens all around us. It is just hidden because people feel too ashamed to come forward and ask for that help. I don’t ever want to see this happen to another person.”

Friend Cassandra Diprose said Mr Scholes was the most charismatic and loving person she knew.

“He was one of the most crazy and electric people I knew,” Ms Diprose said. “He was literally larger than life. He was so cheeky that even though you were mad at him for one reason or another you could never stay that way. He had an absolute heart of gold.”

High school friend Ra Hare said despite the adversity he had faced in his life, Mr Scholes was a larrikin who always made people laugh and cared deeply for his friends. 

“Jesse was dealt with the hardest battles in life,” Ms Hare said. “School seemed to be so easy compared to life after school. I wish so many things today. That we could go back to those school days. That I stayed in contact with him more and that I could have done more.”

Another friend, Bec Dunn, said she was lost for words after hearing of his death.

“Jesse was unique and rare,” she said. “He had a big heart and was such a goose, always making everybody laugh. He was one of a kind.”

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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