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Aussies students come up with amazing way to help homeless: free washing via vans

There are an estimated 300 people who sleep rough each night in Brisbane. Two uni students, looking to help outside of a food truck, have done something a bit different – putting two washers and two dryers in the back of a van.

Set up by Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, Orange Sky Laundry is “Australia’s first mobile laundry service providing homeless people with access to free washing/drying facilities”.

“The homeless have a right to feel clean, a right to fresh clean clothes.”

There is a general lack of places for the homeless to wash their clothes and belongings. While the laundromat is an option, at around $6 for a single wash, it’s not really an expense someone without a roof over their head can afford.

Orange Sky is currently in a pilot period, travelling around Brisbane and Ipswich to see where has the best facilities for their needs, and where they can reach the most people.

Co-founder Lucas Patchett explained to The Daily Mail the logistics of cramming two 10 kilogram washers and driers into the back of a van.

“The architect who helped us said: ‘they’ll probably fit’, but we found we needed to build a platform above the wheel arches – it wasn’t very scientific but we ended up banging the wheel arches out a bit and taking some panels off. We squeezed them in.”

A second vehicle carries a generator and the water required for the washers to operate. The washers themselves are automatically fed, “so there are no powders or toxic chemicals”.

A cycle takes around an hour to complete, with Orange Sky estimating that with one van they can wash the belongings of 10 people per hour. They are setting up the van near local food vans, so that people can go get some breakfast while they wait for their clothes to be cleaned.

Of course, some people are happy to just stick around and have a yarn.

“I was chatting with a guy the other day who used to be a chemical engineer. It’s just a very grounding experience to see how quickly things can go wrong for people,” Patchett said.

The company is in the process of becoming incorporated and receiving Deductible Gift Recipient status so that donations of over $2 will be tax deductible.

In the meantime, donations come via ‘purchasing’ washes. A single wash can be bought for $6, ten cycles for $60, one day’s worth for $120, and a week’s worth for $600.

The long-term plan for the company is to go nation-wide, with “a fleet of larger trucks (with 6 washers and 6 dryers)”.

As to the name, the company took it from an Alexi Murdoch song.

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 and sisters. These values are imperative to us and central to our project.

Orange Sky washers
Orange Sky washers
Orange Sky washers
Orange Sky washers
Orange Sky washers all set-up
Orange Sky washers all set-up
Orange Sky washing machines being installed
Orange Sky washing machines being installed

About the author

Joe was Junior Vice-President at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net until it was bought out by Bill Gates. He now subedits for Conversant Media and considers it a step up.

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