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Orange Sky is not just about the laundry or showers

The 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census found that 116,427 Australians are experiencing homelessness; that’s 1 in 200 people. 

Knowing the statistics on homelessness and wanting to do something to help, two 20-year-old best mates from Brisbane, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, had a dream - to create the world’s first, free mobile laundry and shower service for people experiencing homelessness. After several unsuccessful attempts, their dream, and Orange Sky’s first van (Sudsy), became a reality and hit the streets of Brisbane in October 2014.

Nic and Lucas were initially so focused on making the machines work that they hadn’t considered what would follow. Once the clothes were in the wash, they found that there was nothing else to do but sit down and have a chat with their friends (people who use Orange Sky’s services are referred to as friends, rather than ‘clients’ or ‘customers’).   

Orange Sky is not just about the laundry or showers.  In the hour that it takes to wash and dry a load of laundry, volunteers sit down with friends, sharing genuine and non-judgemental conversations. The most important items in the vans aren’t the washing machines, dryers, generators or water tanks – it is the six orange chairs that are pulled out at each shift and drive Orange Sky’s mission to positively connect communities.

Seven years on, Nic and Lucas’ dream to positively connect communities is going strong.  In 2016, Nic and Lucas were awarded the Young Australians of the Year and in 2020, they received the Medal of the Order of Australia.  With 31 services and over 2,000 volunteers across Australia, Orange Sky has provided more than 1,700 tonnes of fresh laundry, 18,000 showers and (most importantly) over 300,000 hours of genuine, non-judgemental conversation.  

By always partnering with local service providers, vans are set up at locations where friends feel most comfortable. These collaborative partnerships allow people experiencing homelessness to access wrap-around hygiene and connection services, which provides the opportunity for them to build relationships and feel part of the community.

In 2018, Orange Sky launched their first international van in Auckland, New Zealand. A second van was added in Wellington in 2019 to help connect the 41,000 New Zealanders currently experiencing homelessness. 

In 2019, after winning the Google Impact Challenge, Orange Sky launched Volaby, a purpose-built technology solution, specifically designed to help other volunteer-involving organisations amplify their impact. Volaby now has 41 partners, including Sea Shepherd, Meals on Wheels and the Pyjama Foundation. Volaby is a key part of supporting Orange Sky into the future, and part of the organisation’s strategy to create more resilient revenue streams, expanding on the current support from philanthropists, corporate partners, and everyday donors.  Financial sustainability is crucial to keep vans on the street, machines spinning and conversations happening. 

What’s on the horizon for Orange Sky?  
In the next five years, Orange Sky is looking to help more people, more efficiently, whilst still finding ways to innovate and connect with the community.  Having supported more than 13,000 people in 2020, Orange Sky is aiming to support 40,000 people by 2025, so more people doing it tough have access to clean laundry, warm showers and genuine, non-judgemental conversation.  

Find out more at Orange Sky

This organisation is supported by trusts managed by Equity Trustees.