Orange Sky Laundry is tackling homelessness across Australia by offering the world’s first free mobile laundry service – exclusively for those without a home. What started out as an idea hatched by two 20-year-old friends from Brisbane has now grown to a service that covers 19 regions across Australia, with specially designed vans equipped with solar power panels, onboard water storage and a colour co-ordination system to keep track of belongings.
Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett started out in 2014, installing a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of an old van, visiting parks in Brisbane, and offering to wash and dry clothes for free.
Since then they have grown the team and fleet of vans to cover other cities such as Perth and Townsville. The initial aim was to help homeless people maintain their hygiene, stay healthy, as well as restore a sense of human dignity.
In a study on the health of homeless people by the US Institute of Medicine researchers found that homeless people experience a range of illnesses and injuries far wider than the rest of the population. This is due partly to the that fact that health problems themselves sometimes cause or contribute to a person homelessness to begin with. Being homeless can also exacerbate these problems, as it makes getting treatment and being able to manage most illnesses more difficult. So even something as simple as a clean set of clothes can make a difference.
But the unique setting of a mobile laundry service also provided an opportunity to help in a more nuanced but equally meaningful way. According to the team:
“Despite some of our younger volunteers understanding, washing actually takes time. It’s during this time where Orange Sky Laundry can make its biggest impact by fostering non-judgemental conversation. We do this in hopes to help our friends on the street make gradual steps back into society. “
With the help of 6 orange chairs, users of the service can relax and chat with friends and volunteers whilst their clothes are washed. This passion to extend a friendly, helping hand is reflected in the name of the organisation as well:
“The song, Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch has been a major inspiration behind this project. “In your love, my salvation lies” and “I had a dream I stood beneath an orange sky, with my brother standing by” are lyrics from the song. The entire message of the song is about helping your brothers. “values are imperative to us and cent
As well as giving their time and effort, the team hope their unique blend of help, conversation and hope will ripple out in other ways too:
“Orange Sky volunteers have engaged in more than 100,000 hours of conversations to date, helping to dispel myths about homelessness and positively connect communities all around Australia.”
All these things help in their own way, and Orange Sky Laundry are combining that with a bright, positive attitude to provide the little things that can help make homeless people feel human again.
To find out more about Orange Sky Laundry and the work they do, please visit their website.