Orange Sky van’s connect people with people

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Words: Robert Barry   |   Photos RB
6 Dec 2018

Orange Sky is much more than a mobile laundry and shower service for people experiencing homelessness, it’s about providing a much needed social connection between human beings.

The service began more than four years ago in Brisbane when the founders of Orange Sky, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, installed a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of their old van and visited parks and drop-in centres to wash and dry clothes for free.

From starting out as an idea to improve hygiene and restore dignity to local Brisbane people doing it tough, Orange Sky has evolved into a much larger organisation across Australia and now New Zealand, providing much more than just clean clothes and a hot shower.

Orange Sky is staffed by volunteers, who provide genuine and non judgemental conversation to positively connect with people experiencing homelessness, and fending for themselves while living on the streets.

At every location where an Orange Sky van pulls up, out come the six distinctive orange chairs for volunteers and their guests to be able to sit comfortably and chat while clothing is washed and tumbled dry.

“We always partner with service providers such as food vans or drop-in centres, and make sure that we set up at locations where our friends feel most comfortable,” according to Nic and Lucas.

“The Orange Sky community is made up of people who treat others how they want to be treated.” Orange Sky imported “Hugo” a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van into New Zealand from Australia, where the vehicle was custom built by Nic and Lucas and their team of six staff in a Brisbane factory.

NZ Autocar meet the Orange Sky team on location at the Urban Vineyard Church in Eden Terrace Auckland, where a shared lunch was being hosted for anyone who cared to drop in. It is one of many locations across the city where Hugo parks up for several hours at a time.

“All of our 28 vehicles across Australia and now New Zealand are run by volunteers, so we have made things as simple as we possibly can for them to operate the equipment easily and effectively,” says Nic.

“We order the vans in from Germany and then it takes around four to five days for us to build them. A van such as Hugo costs around $140,000 (Australian) to build and about $60,000 to run per year,” he says.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the Hugo Charitable Trust have been the financial supporters behind bringing Orange Sky to New Zealand.

Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford says while support services are working hard to reduce homelessness and get roofs over people’s heads, the laundry service goes some way to bringing rough sleepers one of the simple things most Kiwis take for granted.

"While superficially the service is about clean clothes and showers, the main benefits are the social interactions, the conversations and the opportunity for social services to reach out to rough sleepers,” says Twyford.

“It continues to build our picture of homelessness and helps us shape the support systems we need on the ground,” he says.


NZ Autocar

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