A mobile laundry charity is washing clothes for the homeless in Australia. In September 2014 two 21-year-old Australians, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, wanted to improve life for the homeless, so they built a free mobile laundry in a van – just like Meals on Wheels or Mobile Libraries. Their aim was simple: clean clothes and conversation for the homeless.
Marchesi and Patchett said that laundromats were often too expensive for the homeless to do regular laundry. Starting in their home city of Brisbane in Queensland, they established Orange Sky Laundry, and have now expanded to 10 vans in 36 locations in Melbourne, Sydney, South East Victoria, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Canberra, Perth, and Adelaide.
They wash 350 loads each week (about 7 tonnes of laundry) with the assistance of 270 volunteers, donations, and the assistance of government and private businesses.
Marchesi and Patchett started with an old van, nicknamed Sudsy, and fitted it with a generator, water tanks, two large 10 kilogram washing machines, and two dryers. They drove around town offering to wash clothes for people who were ‘sleeping rough.’
In February 2015 they took their mobile laundry to the disaster areas in North Queensland affected by Cyclone Marcia to wash people’s clothes.
Orange Sky Laundry is about bringing back respect, raising health standards, and being a catalyst for communication and community spirit. The social entrepreneurs hope to expand to wash homeless people’s blankets and sleeping materials that would otherwise go unclean for months or years. Volunteers work about 4 hours a week to ensure that people have clean, dry clothes with plenty of conversation – about 1,300 hours of conversation every week.
While people wait, they can sit on one of the six orange portable chairs and have a chat with volunteers or while meals are cooked in a food van nearby. Generally they park near food vans and barbecue areas so that the homeless can also have something to eat while waiting for their clothes to wash and dry. Water is also sourced from the parks or local businesses, depending on the area and sponsor.
With two washing machines per van, they can wash 20 kilograms of laundry every hour. Linen bags are used for colour separation or to wash multiple people’s clothes at the same time without them getting mixed up. The washing machines are automatically fed, so no-one needs to add washing powders or chemicals. The volunteers simply load the linen bags into the machines, and once the clothes are clean, return the clothes to their owners. The Orange Sky Laundry vans generally operate from 6:00am to 11:00am each day.
Marchesi and Patchett have just launched a pilot for Orange Sky Showers – free mobile shower vans for the homeless. The prototype van has two custom-fitted showers, self sufficient heating, and water tanks so that people can have a completely private hot shower.
Orange Sky Laundry is a DGR type 1 charity in Australia, which means that it is run completely by donations. DGR means Deductible Gift Recipient endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office.
It is the world’s first free mobile laundry service for the homeless.
In January 2016 Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett were named Young Australians of the Year.
Photographs: http://www.australianoftheyear.org.au and Orange Sky Laundry