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Homeless get a helping hand

Orange Sky arrives in Auckland

Published: 26 October 2018
Volunteers David and Eddie man the van at Pitt St Methodist Church

The city’s homeless have a new helping hand.

Orange Sky, the successful Australian service that supports connection and conversation through delivering laundry and hygiene services out of the back of vans, launched in Auckland on World Homeless Day on 10 October.

Free mobile laundry service

The world’s first free mobile laundry service for the homeless was founded by then 20-year-old mates Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett who installed a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of their old van and visited parks to wash and dry clothes.

What started as an idea to improve hygiene standards and restore dignity to street people evolved into something bigger and Waitematā Local Board Chair Pippa Coom says the vans are a welcome addition to the city.

“We successfully partnered with volunteers to trial providing showers for the homeless at Ellen Melville Centre this year. We have also supported a local version, the Wai bus concept developed as part of the Smart Seeds competition.”

Providing dignity to people experiencing homelessness

Auckland Council is assisting Orange Sky by identifying suitable sites and locations for the van and supporting the permitting of locations while the group works with agencies like Auckland City Mission and Lifewise.

“From our experience of funding showers at Ellen Melville Centre we know there is a much-needed gap in services that can provide dignity to people experiencing homelessness so we really welcome the arrival of Orange Sky with Government funding and council support,” Ms Coom says.

Organisers say some of the biggest benefits come about because of the conversations that take place around the vans, as volunteers connect with the homeless.

“Our Australian volunteers have done more than 110,000 hours of conversations, helping to challenge the perception of homelessness, and positively connect communities.”

The vans are packed with washers, dryers, shower units, pumps, water tanks, a generator and a control system.

“Volunteers are going to be critical to Orange Sky succeeding in Auckland so anyone who can spare a few hours to connect with our homeless in a non-judgemental way should get in touch with them,” Ms Coom says.

“We’ve seen the impact of having Ellen Melville’s showers open and being on hand to listen, and this is a chance to do something practical to make a difference.”

Board member Denise Roche was one of the many volunteers who took part in Auckland's first region-wide count of people living without shelter and in temporary accommodation.

During September’s count 179 people were sleeping rough, 157 in cars and another 3000 in temporary accommodation – 1300 of them children. An Otago University exercise found the count represented 40 per cent of those in unsheltered homelessness on the night, meaning about 800 people on the street on the night.

Find out more on Orange Sky in New Zealand.

The new service will be operating every Thursday from 10am to noon at Pitt St Methodist Church.