Picture this; it’s a cold night in May, it’s raining, and you’ve just finished your first volunteer shift with Orange Sky at 9.30pm. You’re happy to be in a nice, warm car with the heater on and you’re already thinking about that cup of tea you’re going to have before hopping into bed tonight. But before you can do that, you bring yourself back to the friends you’ve just said goodbye to on shift and the 116,000 people who tonight, don’t have a place to call home.

A few months ago, we partnered with Harcourts in Brisbane and asked a few of their staff to do something out of their daily routine. We asked if they could give up a few hours of their day – before or after work – to go on an Orange Sky shift, sit down on our orange chairs and chat with some of people whom we have the privilege of calling our friends. It’s what 1300 of our volunteers around Australia do each and every week, and on that cold and rainy night in May, they got to experience first-hand the tough realities for our friends on the street. But more than that, they got to experience the power of connection and conversation.

Until you have been to an Orange Sky shift, it is hard to fully understand the importance of our six orange chairs. It’s where barriers are broken down, stereotypes are challenged, relationships are built and connections are formed. When you’re sitting on those orange chairs, you’re not thinking about the hundreds of emails that you have sitting on in your inbox or the life admin that you have to do on the weekend. You’re focused on the unique individual sitting on the chair across from you and what is happening in their world. At Orange Sky, we’ve seen how a positive connection can transform a person’s life, and that’s why we’re so passionate about helping to connect people all around Australia – and soon the world.

Before volunteering with Orange Sky, many people tell us they’ve never had any connection with a person experiencing homelessness. Or at least they think they haven’t.

In Australia, there are one in 200 people who are doing it tough. Only five percent of those who are classed as ‘homeless’ by the Australian Bureau of Statistics are actually sleeping rough. The other 95 percent are staying in shelters, boarding houses, temporary accommodation or severely crowded homes.

Most of us don’t know what it’s like to spend a night on the street, but nearly all of us could relate to being cash strapped at one point or another. An unexpected bill, a medical emergency or maybe the breakdown of a relationship – it doesn’t take long to be in a situation where money is tight.

Each week, at 26 locations around Australia, we see new volunteers jump out on our vans for the very first time. People get involved with Orange Sky for all sorts of reasons – they might have time on their hands, be looking to give back to the community, or in some cases, are after some sort of human connection themselves. Just like our friends, our volunteers are interesting, complex and extraordinary people who give up their time each week to help make someone else’s life just that little bit better.

Caitlin was one of the staff from Harcourts who came along to shift and met some of our friends. She told us she was overwhelmed by positivity and resilience of a friend she met out on shift that night.

“He’s had such bad luck and he’s such a nice guy… I couldn’t believe all the stuff he did. He lost his housing because he was paying rent to someone who wasn’t paying the real estate. He’s built his own little house and coffee table and created all this stuff from kerbside pick-up. He’s a really good guy.”

You can check out the full video below to see what happened when Harcourts staff met our friends.

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

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