Orange Sky Laundry founders Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett. Photo Mark Cranitch.
Orange Sky Laundry founders Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett. Photo Mark Cranitch.

COMMENT: Organisation a game-changer for homelessness

OUTSIDE of Sydney, Byron Shire has the highest number of people sleeping rough per capita in NSW.

That is why we are very fortunate to have a service working right now in the Northern Rivers that is helping those experiencing homelessness and sleeping rough.

Since 2017 I have been campaigning alongside other members of the community to help bring Orange Sky to the Shire and I am so thrilled to welcome them here.

Orange Sky is a charity that helps to positively connect members of the community in need through free laundry services, showers and conversation.

Orange Sky has provided 1,353,440kg of washing, 13,497 warm showers and most importantly, 233,235 hours of genuine and non-judgemental conversation. The charity’s volunteers often provide a familiar face and much-needed consistency to people who may be facing one of the toughest times in their lives.

So many people I speak to who are sleeping rough, living in cars or couch surfing in the Northern Rivers tell me they don’t know how to find out about services that are out there for them. Having the Orange Sky van in our area means that people can bank on where the van will be every week of the year and they know that there are volunteers there in the same place every week to talk to about what assistance is available to them. Of course it’s brilliant that folk get to have a shower and do a load of laundry, but it is the information and support also available that can transform a person’s circumstances. Orange Sky is a grassroots change and we are so grateful to the philanthropists who have made our van “Don” possible in the Northern Rivers.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in our community is increasing. One in 200 people in Australia are experiencing homelessness and of these, five per cent are sleeping rough. The overwhelming majority are staying in shelters, boarding houses, temporary accommodation or severely crowded homes.

Alongside Detective Chief Inspector Matt Kehoe, officer in charge of Byron police station, I recently facilitated a think tank on homelessness and rough sleeping. The event brought together over 40 frontline workers and was a big step toward defining solutions for the Shire.

While a warm shower, clean clothes and conversation isn’t the catch-all answer, connecting with members of the community can make a big difference. If you would like to help and have some free time to spare, please consider volunteering for this very worthwhile service.

You never know the impact you might have on a person’s life.

To volunteer with Orange Sky, contact them here:

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