13 February 2015

Meet the guys keeping Australia’s homeless in clean clothes

Sometimes the simplest idea can have the greatest impact.

After noticing a gap in the services offered to Brisbane's homeless, Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi kitted out a van with two washers and dryers to launch Orange Sky Laundry - Australia's first mobile laundry service for the homeless.

Orange Sky Laundry founders Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi.

But the 20-year-olds say they've done more than sort out homeless people's dirty laundry in the last four months. "This isn't just about washing clothes, it's a catalyst for conversation," says engineering student Lucas.

Being homeless often means having to neglect the simple things in life that others take for granted. On the streets, having clean clothes quickly goes from being the norm to a rare luxury.

"We saw all the great work that the food vans and other services have offered in Brisbane and Australia-wide, and just noticed that this hygiene aspect that has been overlooked quite a bit," said Lucas.

Launched in August 2014, Orange Sky Laundry now runs five days a week, Monday to Friday. It is funded purely by public donations and manned by a growing crew of young volunteers.

The free service usually pulls up near food vans, health vans and cook-outs so people can get their laundry done while they have their meal.

Using washers and dryers donated by electronics giant LG and powered by an on-board generator, the team can clean and dry around 20kg of clothing every hour, which covers around ten people.

But the non-profit does more than deal with people's dirty laundry. Lucas says the service helps make lasting and meaningful connections with homeless people.

"Once you take someone's clothes and put them in the washing machine, you've locked them in for 45 minutes,” he explains.

“They’re not going anywhere, so we can have a quality chat with them, build up relationships and figure out the best services to refer them to.

"Once we've established a rapport with our friends/clients, the service has been very well received. We've also seen some people transition off the streets, which is our ultimate goal."

Lucas and Nicholas will soon expand the service to Cairns, a city on the Queensland coast, after receiving a new van from the Jelley Family Foundation. They are also in talks to set up Orange Sky Laundry in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne.

"Homelessness is quite a big issue here," explained Lucas. "It's one of those issues that's kind of hidden in most major cities, so we're all about raising awareness. It's why we share stories on our Facebook page - it can happen to anyone."

To find out more or to donate to Orange Sky Laundry, visit their website or Facebook page.

This is a summary of an article originally published on INSP's News Service. You can read the full article here. The article is also available for street paper editors to download and republish.