This article was originally published in December 2014.
In Brisbane, Australia, two young men and a bright orange van are offering some cheer to the many people who live on the city’s streets, sleeping rough.
Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi, both 20, founded Orange Sky Laundry in July of this year. It’s a free mobile laundry service for homeless people that operates out of their van. This is a first for Australia, and possibly for the world.
In Brisbane, many homeless shelters offer laundry services, but they don’t come free. And they can be difficult to access for a person travelling with a large bundle. Orange Sky Laundry brings the service to them, at various accessible, though discreet, locations across the city. Currently, it operates for five hours, five days a week.
Washing their clothing and blankets is a basic standard not afforded to many homeless people. It’s why restoring respect is one of the founding tenants of the organization. Orange Sky also hopes to improve health standards and reduce strain on resources, presumably by washing larger loads of laundry together.
Here’s how it works. The van tows a generator, providing the electricity for the machines. Water is sourced from local businesses or parks, depending on the location. Orange Sky has two washers and two dryers, which can serve about ten people an hour. Linen bags are used to keep each patron’s belongings separate.
The organization has banded together with some of Brisbane’s food vans, vehicles that travel around the city offering free meals, and sometimes tea and coffee. It gives patrons something to do during the hour-long wait for laundry to finish. Currently, Orange Sky does not have facilities set up so that people can wash the clothes they’re wearing; any extra clothing or materials, however, can go in. While there was a period of initial hesitation, as Orange Sky has become known in the community, it has been met with enthusiasm, according to the founders.
Orange Sky has corporate sponsorship through LG, Richard Jay and Symbio, and also accepts donations. It costs about $600 per week to run the laundry service and donations can be made either for one cycle ($6), ten cycles, one-day service ($120) or for the full week. This is a pilot project and the founders hope to expand the service throughout Australia to serve the approximately 105,000 people who are homeless. At the beginning of 2015, Orange Sky will begin growing its team with volunteers.