MOBILE HELP: Orange Sky founders (left to right) Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi visiting Southern Cross University in Lismore.
MOBILE HELP: Orange Sky founders (left to right) Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi visiting Southern Cross University in Lismore. Mia Armitage

Washing machines going mobile to help the homeless

HOMELESS people in the Northern Rivers could have access to a mobile laundry service next year if community support is strong enough to raise $100,000 and some voluntary labour.

Mt Warning AM Rotary Club President Peter McDonald said the group has launched a fund-raising campaign to bring an Orange Sky Laundry van to the NSW north coast with a concert at Stokers Siding in the Murwillumbah area but another $97 500 was still needed.

"We have a big job ahead of us,” said Mr McDonald.

"There is a huge need because the number of homeless people is on the increase in the area.”

Young Australians of the Year 2016 Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett converted an old van into a mobile laundry in Brisbane, with money donated by charity Shine On and Queensland Urban Utilities, and turned the taps on for the first time in August.

They visited Southern Cross University in Lismore where potential students heard the charity had increased its fleet to 11 vans, including a new shower van, servicing 62 areas with more than 700 volunteers.

"We've stopped in Lismore before,” Mr Marchesi said. "There is lots of interest to get a van in the area.”

"It only takes two days to build but we need four things: volunteers, homeless friends, homeless providers and $100,000.”

Mr Marchese said volunteers can work as little as two hours per fortnight and up to ten hours per week.

"We're not religiously or politically motivated, we're not trained social workers.

"It's about having a a chat while the washing is on.”

He said most homeless people he meets are "everyday Australians who have had one or two things go wrong”, such as family breakdowns and job losses, that can become disastrous without adequate community support.

"Companionship is important,” he said and pointed out the six orange chairs included in each van to facilitate conversation between volunteers and their "homeless friends”.

Mr McDonald said the homeless people he'd seen in Murwillumbah were "really roughing it” and members of charity group You Have A Friend were delivering 300 free meals a week to the area.

"Usually they don't even have tents and some don't even have a vehicle, they're really roughing it with their swags, with no where to put the swags.

"Our club has been in awe of what Orange Sky has achieved and we thought what a great concept if we can bring that service to the people in the area.

"It's about trying to give these people some dignity, clean clothes, job interviews, get some self esteem and get of the cycle they're in.”

Club members have decided to make Orange Sky the official charity for next year's book fair, with a date to be confirmed and other fund-raising event to be announced.

"We are looking to cover the area from south of the border to somewhere around Byron or thereabouts but if other communities wish to become involved we'd certainly look at extending the area.”



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