Two Guys, a Van, and a Crazy Idea

In 2014, two young blokes named Nic and Lucas found out that there were 116,000 Australians experiencing homelessness.

To put that in perspective, the MCG – our country’s biggest sporting arena – holds 100,000 people. Let that sink in for a bit.

Nic and Lucas knew that it was a big number and they wanted to do something to help. They had a crazy idea to build a free mobile laundry service and decided to hit up a big laundry company to get some washers and dryers.

The boys were told that it would never work, that no one would wash and dry their clothes in a park and that the machines would never operate in the back of a van.

It took them three days (and three sets of washing machines and dryers from the laundry company) to get the van working.

Nic, Lucas and Sudsy hit the streets and met a friend named Jordan. With the machines in full swing, there wasn’t a lot left to do but sit down and chat – and that’s where they learnt the real impact of the service. Sure, having clean clothes was important, but sitting down with Jordan and genuinely listening to his experience meant so much more.

That’s why at Orange Sky, our mission doesn’t involve the words ‘laundry’ or ‘washing’ – it is to positively connect communities.

We see everyday the power of a simple conversation and how feeling connected and part of a community can change a person’s life.

Here’s just a few of the friends that we’ve learnt that from over the past four and a half years:

George, Perth


George is one of our friends on the street who comes to shift each week to wash his clothes, have a warm shower and sit down for a chat with volunteers. He knows that he can rely on Orange Sky to be at the same place, same time, each and every week.

George has spent the past eight years living on and off the street and said it was the simple things that often had the biggest impact. “When you’ve been homeless for such a long time, it’s the small things that can give you a little bit more hope.”

Harry, Brisbane


When we first met Harry, he didn’t have a home, but we were able to provide him with access to clean clothes and genuine conversation. Harry taught us that homelessness is not about the absence of a roof over your head, but rather the absence of human connection. Although he no longer uses our laundry service, Harry still comes down every week for a chat with volunteers on our six orange chairs.

Luke, Sydney


Luke found himself living on the street after a serious relationship breakdown 10 years ago.
He is now getting his life back on track and said it was the support and genuine care of people in his life who helped him through such a difficult time. Every day across Australia, Orange Sky is able to provide friends like Luke with clean clothes, warm showers and genuine connection.

116,000 Australians are disconnected from the community and in need of support and human connection. But there’s something we can all do to help.

At Orange Sky, we’re lucky to have an amazing community of people who believe in what we do and support our crazy ideas – like the one to build a free mobile laundry van named Sudsy.

So, here’s another one for you all. It’s called The Sudsy Challenge; keep your kit on for three days, start conversations and support friends on the street.

Wearing the same clothes for three days in a row might be difficult or inconvenient, but that’s the whole point. It might give you just a small insight into some of the many challenges faced by our friends on the street. But it also might start a few conversations. Conversations that will help to raise funds and awareness so that everyone can have access to free laundry, warm showers and genuine conversation.

Help us build more vans like Sudsy and positively connect all Australians in need.

Sign up today for The Sudsy Challenge!


Supporting Townsville

In March 2018, when we launched Orange Sky’s laundry and shower service in Townsville, I told everyone “it never rains here”. Growing up in Ingham, 100km north of Townsville, I’d been through enough wet seasons to know that ‘rain’ and ‘Townsville’ were two words that generally didn’t go together.

But what did I know? The week of the Townsville service launch, it rained the entire time and was the wettest launch event that we’d ever had.

Despite the weather, I remember being so proud that Orange Sky had finally made it to North Queensland. I was excited that the service would reach more people in need and was determined to help grow the community’s understanding around homelessness. Not even a year later, ‘Caz’, our laundry and shower van, has helped the community in ways that I could never have imagined.

We often hear stories of friends who have had a few things go wrong and find themselves living on the street or in a position where they need to access support services.

The ‘one-in-100 year’ flood disaster in Townsville has affected thousands of homes and left so many people without a roof over their head. Orange Sky has been able to mobilise three vehicles, including Caz, to help provide assistance to locals – many whom have become temporarily homeless through the recent weather event. A team of local volunteers and staff have done more than 4000kg of laundry, helping to restore just a little bit of normality to people’s lives.

We’ve heard so many heart breaking stories over the past few weeks, but also many of hope, resilience and community spirit. So many people who, in the face of complete disaster and adversity, have found a way to just keep going.

Like Crystal, a single mum and education student lost everything in the floods. She had no insurance and said she was too overwhelmed to even think about filling out paperwork to access support. After staying at an evacuation centre for the week (her 10-year-old son thought it was all a big adventure), she found a place to live and Orange Sky volunteers were able to help her move the small amount of belongings that she had left.

There’s Neilin (pictured left with volunteers), an 18-year-old who volunteered with a group of mates to help clean up homes around Townsville. He even found time to pop in to an Orange Sky shift to let us know he loved what we do. He told us he was grateful for our support to his community and was hoping to sign up as an Orange Sky volunteer after just turning 18. (What a legend!)

Chloe was on her way home to Hughenden when she became stranded in Townsville.

“We are all in the same boat and have nowhere to go and all been affected. People are here to help us because they want to be here, not because they have to.

You can only wear the same clothes so many times before they start to smell in the heat. It was amazing to clean my clothes and I was at the point where I would have to hand wash my clothes, so Orange Sky meant the world. To be able to wash and dry my clothes and have them handed back to me meant the world.”

There’s the people who entrusted us with their most valued possessions, and as volunteer Tony explained, it’s not a job that anyone takes lightly.

“A lady came up to me and asked if we could please try and wash something for her. She didn’t expect a perfect result, but they had lost everything. She was going to throw it out, but thought we might be able to help. It was her wedding dress, with a three-foot train and fresh water pearls. It was 80 to 90 percent humidity on this day and everything was growing mould. She couldn’t get it to a dry cleaner and there was no vinegar left anywhere.

A woman also asked if I could please take special care of these items, it’s all she managed to save from her daughter who passed away. I’m relieved to say it was successful!”

Then there’s the Townsville volunteers, some of whom were impacted themselves by flooding. Their amazing compassion, kindness and generosity has inspired us all.

Caz has supported the community in more ways than I could had ever expected – not just through laundry services, but by providing an opportunity for people to sit down, have a chat, and maybe – even just for a second – forget about their reality. What’s happened in Townsville is nothing short of devastating, but like always, North Queenslanders have a way of just getting on with it and supporting each other in times of need.

By Megan Groundwater

Help to positively connect some of the 116,000 Australians doing it tough.

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Orange Sky's One Dollar Donor

We see donations come through every single day; big and small amounts, regular or once off contributions, funds that have been raised from an event or donated for a cause.

Our Finance Manager, Emma Young (pictured above), has been at the forefront of this since she started with Orange Sky more than two years ago. Since then, she has noticed $1 go into our account every fortnight from an anonymous donor – and she has been desperate to find out who it is.

“I’ve always speculated about who it might be and have wondered if we’d ever be able to thank them. All donations, big or small, mean so much to us at Orange Sky. Every little bit counts,” she said.

“The donor had never given us their contact details so we didn’t know exactly who they were… until now!

“We sent out an email as part of our Christmas campaign and I couldn’t believe it when I saw the message in our inbox.”

It turns out the anonymous donor’s name is Alison. She told us that she’s on an Age Pension and has $1 deducted from her bank account every two weeks. She said that giving regularly to someone who deserves it is “good for the soul” and honestly our hearts could not be any fuller right now.

Emma touched base with Alison as soon as she received the message.

“I told that her that we were so excited to receive her email as we’ve noticed her fortnightly donation for years, and just how much it meant to everyone at Orange Sky and our friends on the street,” she said.

“We are so grateful to have people like Alison who believe in what we do and support us however they can.”

You can read Alison’s original message below:

Dear Orange Sky people.

I am on an OAPension and so I automatically (through my bank) donate $1 – I think it’s every month or every fortnight – from my pension. That’s all I can manage. But I encourage others to do the same. It’s not much but the totals add up, and I’ve been doing this for 2-3 years or even more – I’ve forgotten.

I praise you for your idea and work. God Bless. Have a happy Christmas – be careful, enjoy, laugh and share.

Help to positively connect some of the 116,000 Australians doing it tough.

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International Volunteer Day: Meet Helen

Sometimes we wonder if volunteers know the impact that they have on the lives of others; not just the people they encounter through volunteering, but the people they come across in everyday life. At Orange Sky, we are continually blown away by the generosity, kindness and compassion of our volunteers across Australia. We currently have more than 1,500 of them.

Today is International Volunteer Day and we are celebrating our volunteers and highlighting what they do best; sitting down on an orange chair, having a conversation and positively connecting with person in need.

There is no formula that makes up the typical volunteer. There is the university student with a few hours between lectures, the full-time worker who has their evenings free, the parent who has time to spare while the kids are at school, and the retiree who wants to give back after a life of employment. No two volunteers are the same, and yet all similar in the way that they bring people together through connection and genuine conversation.

Helen is one of our volunteers at Orange Sky’s laundry service in Melbourne.

She became a volunteer because she wanted to get involved and help out in a meaningful way – but has felt just as rewarded by the experience.

“We learn about compassion, understanding and acceptance, and so I think a lot of the volunteers really get a lot more out of it than we feel that we give.”

Watch the video below to hear more about Helen’s story.

Volunteer with Orange Sky

Volunteer Now


What we plan to do with $1 million…

Four years ago, Orange Sky co-founder Nicholas Marchesi put two red p plates on an orange van and picked up his best mate, Lucas Patchett, in Brisbane. Charged with a brand new van with two washers and two dryers, they were en route to Melbourne to help people doing it tough. This was the second van they had built and the first heading outside the safe confines of Brisbane. 

Launch day was a great success but there was one massive challenge – they had no tool to recruit, roster, measure or protect volunteers, donors, and most importantly friends.
Twenty-seven vans, 11,000 volunteer applications, 40,000 shifts, 3,000 incident reports and 850 tonnes of washing later, Orange Sky has designed a web app to help us deliver our mission to Positively Connect Communities. It allows us to track the number of washes, showers and hours of conversation we provide for our friends. The app also supports our volunteers by reporting any safety incidents and ensuring our vans are on the road every day. 

The $1 million from Google has given us the opportunity to grow our web app and provide the entire sector with the same technology that drives Orange Sky. There is so much to do, but with this support, we know that we can scale our technology to make a massive difference for people doing it tough all over Australia.
Tonight in Australia, 116,000 people are experiencing homelessness and over 3,000 service providers are trying to help. Orange Sky has connected 17,000 people but working together, as a sector, we could help thousands more. 

Our web app will enable charities and community groups to record and track their mobile outreach service delivery. The web-based solution will empower these charities who provide essential services including food, health, hygiene, and housing to measure the impact of those services on people in need. This will be the first and only centralised solution that accurately and consistently tracks and measures homelessness service delivery and impact.
It was awesome to stand alongside Hireup, Humanitix and Xceptional as winners for the Google Impact Challenge.
Stay tuned for regular updates and walk with us as we progress towards this amazing opportunity for the Australian not for profit sector.

Help to positively connect some of the 116,000 Australians doing it tough.

Donate Now


Annual Report Test

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Big Ben Blog

There’s a lot to love about George.

He is passionate about his community, always up for a chat, and never fails to put a smile on your face.

It’s no surprise that when he heard that an Orange Sky van was headed for his local area in Perth South, he was the first in line to know about it.

“I thought, ‘this is going to be interesting. I’d like to see how the van is set up’,’’ he said.

He decided to bring some washing down to our first shift at Rockingham to have a chat with volunteers and learn more about the service. Since that initial visit, he is now one of our most regular faces on shift – sometimes he comes to do his laundry, other times for a hot shower, but always for the conversation.

“I quite look forward to it every week, simply because I know you guys are going to be here. I can rely on you,’’ he said.

“It’s things like this that enable me to do the right thing. I don’t have to worry about trying to get some money together just to wash my clothes. Community is really important, I like to look after the community and the people in it.’’

George has spent the past eight years living on and off the street and said it was the simple things that often had the biggest impact.

“When you’ve been homeless for such a long time, it’s the small things that can give you a little bit more hope,’’ he said.

“I won’t go looking for a job if I stink and my clothes are dirty, but if I’ve got nice clean clothes and I smell nice and someone wants to talk to me about having a look at a job, I’ll definitely be in it.

“I can come down [to shift] and start talking about fishing, camping, whatever and you guys are always a good laugh and join in. You throw your stories in and have a good laugh,” he said.

“It just alleviates a lot of pressure out of people’s lives and that can really help people.”

When George reflects on all of his conversations with volunteers, it was one from his first ever visit to Orange Sky that comes to mind

“So that little sort of scenario can set up other scenarios that will help better my life, and if it betters my life, how many other lives can it better?”

He admitted that while it was easy to become withdrawn from the community, the weekly conversation and banter with Orange Sky volunteers helped him to feel connected.

“I told her a little bit about where I was from up North and it was quite interesting, we just sat there talking like old friends for a good hour and a half while the washing was getting through. It was great, I really enjoyed it. It was fantastic to see that some people like to share themselves as much as I do.’’

It’s our privilege to be able to wash George’s clothes and offer him a hot shower each and every week, but an even bigger honour to enjoy his conversation and have him as a part of the Orange Sky community.

Interested in joining the team?
Check out our volunteer page  to find out more and register to get involved.

Volunteer Now


Keith's Passion for Connection

We met Keith on a cold winter morning in Fitzroy where he told us about a “fella in a wheelchair” that he once met on his way to the shops. The man had a sign resting on the floor asking for donations and was also unable to speak. Keith didn’t have money to offer him, but said “good day” to him in sign language (it was one of the few words Keith could remember in sign language – along with all the vowels).

“It just rung with him and he looked like a different fellow altogether because I’d said good day to him. He was really miserable before that,” Keith said.

It was clear to us to that Keith understood the power of connection and the value of a simple conversation to a person experiencing homelessness. He has first hand experience living many years on the streets of Melbourne feeling disconnected from the community.

“I had my own house once and things happened. I got assaulted on the street and it took me two years before I could walk straight again,” he said.

“I lived in parks and things like that but I didn’t stay in the same place every night, I kept on moving around the suburbs. Once I got used to living in that way, it became a way of life. And then the St Vincent’s Hospital [in Melbourne] found out how I was living and they found me a room to live in. It was a great help.”

Being part of a community is important to Keith. He came to Australia from Manchester in 1956 for the Olympic Games, and said he felt “at home” in Melbourne where the architecture was similar to Manchester.

Keith visits the Orange Sky laundry and shower van in Melbourne each week and said that everyone deserves a feeling of connection to the community.
“Since I’ve been in the Fitzroy area, I’ve seen lots of people sitting in doorways late at night, and most people just walk past them and give them a dirty look,” he said.
“I’ve found them to be very interesting people. Many of them have had a really good education, and they’ve had a rough trot in life and have hit the bottom.
“They’re on guard because they’ve had bad experiences, but just by saying hello and giving them a smile and a little chat, their personality comes out that is hidden.”

Keith said he hoped for more understanding across the community for people in tough situations.

“There’s a big gap between people that are right at the bottom end and people that have everything,” he said.

“When you’ve got everything you want and you want more, you’ll have more than you need and you’ll lose sight of other people that are struggling.

“Communication between everyone in the world is a very important thing.”

Interested in joining the team?
Check out our volunteer page  to find out more and register to get involved.

Volunteer Now


Not Just a Shower

“Hi, my name is Pete and it was 18 days since I last had a shower. I live in the middle of a lake and the dirt out there is pretty thick…it’s going to take a few more showers to get that dirt off. I am glad you will be here next week as well.

I have been living at out Lake Richmond now for the last 18 days and I have been homeless on and off for about five or six years. A lot of people couldn’t live how I do. It is a hard life and what makes it even harder is the fact that my partner passed away out there four years ago. Even though that happened, I find it very safe to live there.

I have a daughter, a mother and a sister in Perth but I don’t see them much. They are all upper-class people and when I hit the streets they disowned me…they didn’t want to know me. One of the reasons for this was that I was a bad heroin user. But…I am proud to say that I haven’t used the drug for four years now…when my partner passed away it was a massive wake up call.

I don’t really mix much with anyone. Nearly everyone in the community have no idea about homelessness, they just look down on us. It’s as if we are not part of their community because we don’t live like they do. I feel like no one wants to help us because we will just go and buy drugs or make bad decisions. Not many people want to sit down and hear my story and actually empathise with what got me into this situation.

I first heard about Orange Sky about five or six months ago now. I met you at the Salvation Army and I thought it was a good idea, you don’t get many people supporting the simple things like washing clothes and having showers.

As soon as I spoke with Lisa (Service Manager), I knew I could communicate with her. I don’t connect with many people in the community but there was something about the way she spoke to me that made me at ease. I am a very stubborn person but I was able to have a very normal and easy conversation.

I come here every Friday now and love the idea that I can have a shower and have a chat. It’s ten times as good as any shower I have had in the last five years. I feel like a new man, it’s very good that you have come along.”

Interested in joining the team?
Check out our volunteer page  to find out more and register to get involved.

Volunteer Now


Dot's Impact

That’s Dot O’Neill, she’s 76 years old and has been volunteering at Transit in Narre Warren for more than seven years.

Dot told us about her experience as a volunteer in Melbourne’s South East and said it was an opportunity to give back to the community.

“We’ve got a bit of everything – pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, noodles, baby food, canned food, jams, Vegemite. Whatever we’ve got, we give out,” she said.

“You get a lot out of it yourself… it’s something really special.”

Transit provides people in need with access to hot meals and groceries, but Dot said there’s another part of the service that is equally important.

“Some of [our guests] actually live on their own and just come here for companionship,” she said.

“Someone came in the other day and said ‘I pick up [groceries] not because I necessarily need it but because I need to get here and talk to people.’

“The atmosphere here is amazing. If you’re here for a while, you’ll see that we’ve got a team of volunteers that come in and give of themselves and at the moment, we’ve just got this lovely, friendly atmosphere.”

Dot said she felt part of a community at Transit and valued the opportunity to connect with people doing it tough.

“A lot of these people you get to know really personally. You sometimes hear the story of their life and you just feel that love for them,” she said.

“Having a mother come in here with her daughter and say to me ‘I’ve given food to my daughter but I haven’t been able to eat for a few days because I’ve just had absolutely nothing,’ that’s not an uncommon story.

“One woman had been moved from place to place and she had absolutely nothing. Just recently, she got a home and it’s just a real blessing to here.

“These are the sort of stories that really mean so much to us.”

Orange Sky operates at Transit in Narre Warren every Monday afternoon. Visit our volunteer page to find out more and register to get involved.

Orange Sky operates at Transit in Narre Warren every Monday afternoon.
Visit our volunteer page to find out more and register to get involved.

Volunteer Now