Currently 1 in every 200 people in Australia are sleeping on the streets each night. But now many of these rough sleepers are able to get a warm shower and clean, dry clothes, thanks to Orange Sky - a free, volunteer run, mobile laundry service. What's more, Orange Sky volunteers actively set up chairs around their van to offer a place for a good chat. The connection between the volunteers and their friends on the street has been regarded as valuable as the washing service itself, providing a safe place to engage and share stories.
Over 100,000 people are homeless in Australia. People living on the streets constantly struggle to find somewhere to wash and launder clothing, making personal hygiene challenging, which can disconnect people from the community.
In 2014, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, came up with a brilliant idea. The 20-year-old friends installed a couple of washers and driers in the back of their old van and set off to parks around Brisbane to wash clothes for free. Five years on, their old van has been retired and replaced with 29 new vans that are operating in 250 locations around Australia every week. Two 10kg washers and dryers in the laundry vans produce 40kg of clean washing every hour, totalling nearly 10 tonnes of laundry every week for homeless people around Australia.
Orange Sky also run a mobile shower service using vans kitted out with 500 litre tanks, allowing for 15-20 showers without a water supply. Each week they provide over 130 showers for their friends on the street, people in remote locations, and for people experiencing disasters, such as disruption caused by severe weather. One of Orange Sky's regularly visiting friends, George, said:
“I find it very tough at the best of times to keep clean and keep my clothing clean. A simple little thing like that can take so much pressure off a person like me, that we feel like we can breathe again... when you’ve been homeless for such a long time, it’s the small things that can give you a little bit more hope,’’.
However, the work of Orange Sky extends much further than providing a warm shower and clean clothes. Every Orange Sky van is run by volunteers and equipped with 6 orange chairs. The orange chairs are set up around the van to provide a platform for volunteers to positively connect with their friends on the street through genuine and non-judgemental conversation. George enjoys having a good laugh with the Orange Sky volunteers, with a smile he said:
It alleviates a lot of pressure out of people's lives, and that can really help people...".
Orange Sky have now partnered up with Programmed, a recruiter and provider of labourers,
to offer a 13-week training and employment placement with Orange Sky. Participants are supported by volunteers to learn skills that can be used in a variety of workplaces in the future. The placement provides a recent employment history, references and ongoing support from Programmed to find further opportunities.