There are around 116 000 people in Australia experiencing homelessness. Orange Sky is a not-for-profit organisation helping to positively connect people doing it tough by providing free laundry, warm showers and genuine conversation.
It was an idea founded in a Brisbane garage by two 20-year-old mates, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett. In late 2014, the boys installed a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of their old van and visited parks around Brisbane to wash and dry clothes for free. What started as an idea to improve hygiene standards and restore dignity to people has evolved into something much bigger. Orange Sky’s biggest impact does not rely on washers spinning or dryers tumbling. It happens through the hours of conversation that take place on their six orange chairs, which are pulled out at every one of their shift locations.
Each week, all over Australia, thousands of volunteers give a few hours of their time to positively connect with ‘friends’ – people experiencing homelessness – through genuine and non-judgemental conversation. Orange Sky always partners with service providers such as food vans or drop-in centres, and makes sure that they set up at locations where people feel most comfortable.
“We often talk about Orange Sky as a magnet that draws people together from all walks of life. A magnet for conversation”, Orange Sky Co-Founder Lucas Patchett said. “One of the basic privileges a lot of us take for granted is having clean clothes to put on each day – it may seem small, but for a person doing it tough, having access to laundry and shower services can make a huge difference in their life.
Orange Sky’s simple formula:
To provide a platform for everyday Australians to connect through a regular laundry and shower service. The focus is on creating a safe, positive and supportive environment for people who are too often ignored or who feel disconnected from the community. Volunteers are not social workers or experts on homelessness – they are empathetic listeners and great conversationalists.
“Where we see our biggest impact is in the hours of conversation that take place between volunteers and friends while on shift. It is also about supporting discussions around everyone’s role in helping people through connection and genuine conversation.” Orange Sky currently operates 31 services across Australia, including three laundry vans and one shower van across Melbourne. To date, volunteers have provided more than 40 000 hours of genuine conversation to friends doing it tough in Melbourne, and around 21 000 loads of washing.
If you’d like to make a difference in your community, Orange Sky is looking for volunteers to help out in the South East of Melbourne. All it takes is a few hours a week – register today at orangesky.org.au.