“It’s been challenging for everyone going back into lockdown in Melbourne, but even more so for our friends that we see on shift. Leading up to the lockdown, we were having lots of conversations with friends about what might happen, the uncertainty and where that would leave them with access to services, and the impending social isolation.

Those conversations were particularly important – hearing their concerns, acknowledging them, and staying upbeat and positive, reassuring them that whatever challenges lockdown would present, they would eventually pass and life would return to some version of normal.  Many were agitated and anxious, but listening to them and acknowledging their perspective seemed to give them some comfort.

What we have noticed since stage 4 lockdown is that every week, we get a solid contingent of regulars who come.  For many, we are their only social interaction for the day, or even the week.  They come to ‘shoot the breeze’, have some ‘normal’ conversations and then of course the ‘all encompassing’ conversations about COVID and lockdown  – which is the key topic of conversation in Melbourne at the moment!
They come to get their laundry done. To see us and to see each other. They ask about us as much as we ask about them, and on both sides of the discussion, it is reassuring to hear how others are coping with what life is presenting, and calming to have a listening ear to air the frustrations. It feels like it is more important than ever that we are there every week, greeting them with a warm smile (hard to detect behind a mask!) and a wave! We ask how their week has been and they are eager to engage and share what’s been happening.

Some of our friends have told us they have been moved into hotels – which they have appreciated, but it is not without its challenges. Being around many other vulnerable people in the hotels has affected their anxiety levels, so ‘escaping’ that environment for a different type of social interaction has made our shifts and conversations they offer, a welcome experience.

I really feel a strong connection to the friends we serve on shift at the moment. There is a mutual understanding that we are all going through tougher times than usual, but that the conversations, the chatter and the jokes we share is so important to all of us to give us the strength and courage to get through to the other side – whatever that may look like!

We love seeing them every week, and knowing that they are in good spirits and doing ok. And I think they feel the same about the volunteers and each other!”

Denise has volunteered with Orange Sky in Melbourne for the past year and a half – normally with our shower van, Monty, but during COVID, she’s jumped on a laundry shift at Cleve Gardens on Wednesday evenings. We’re very grateful to have people like Denise as part of the Orange Sky team who not only support our mission to positively connect communities, but have empathy and understanding for our friends doing it tough.

Help us continue to ensure that our friends in Melbourne have a place to connect. 

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Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office