Two 20-year-olds from Brisbane are making a huge difference in the lives of homeless people.
After a hugely successful pilot program in Brisbane, Orange Sky Laundry — a free mobile laundry service for the homeless — has expanded nationally.
The company was created by two 20-year-olds, Nicolas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, during their time at university. They wanted to make a difference to homeless people’s lives in Queensland and eventually around the country.
They’re certainly on the right track.
The boys have just received a $30,000 Jetstar Flying Start Grant, which has allowed them to expand their service to Melbourne.
“With the grant we are able to grow from a Queensland-based service to a national-based service, which is incredible,” Nicolas says.
Nicolas says they started the company because homeless people are often overlooked.
“There is a lot of disconnect with the homeless,” he says.
“The van not only provides them with clean clothes, it improves their health, makes them feel respected and reduces strain of resources.
“It’s also a place they can come and have a chat in a non-judgemental place and see regular faces.”
The van is equipped with a washer and dryer and travels around to drop in centres, parks and community centres alongside other charities.
“We work in collaboration with other charities, so our friends on the street can grab something to eat, have a chat and have their clothes washed at the same time,” Nicolas says.
Lucas says the service is often met with a lot of scepticism at first.
“A lot our friends on the street have been done over before, so they ask ‘what’s the catch?’ ‘Do I have to pay?’ he says.
“We want to build the rapport with them and constant presence is the thing. We want to make them feel comfortable in handing over their bags and clothes, which are probably the only things they have left in the world.”
Orange Sky Laundry is run entirely by young volunteers aged 18 to 35, and the boys say they’re looking for volunteers now for both Brisbane and Melbourne services.
“You only have to make a two hour commitment, which isn’t long and you’re giving back to the community,” Nicolas says.
“To be a volunteer (at Orange Sky Laundry) you need to have empathy, first of all. A driver’s license would be good too, and you just need to be able talk to people and make nice conversation.
“Homeless people are continually ignored, so a non-judgemental place to hang and a nice conversation can really help.”
Nicolas says the company is looking to expand further in the future .
“We are looking to help out and support victims of natural disasters and we want to eventually train and employ the homeless to run the van,” he says.
For more information about Orange Sky Laundry or to volunteer visit www.orangeskylaundry.com.au