At Orange Sky HQ, the words ‘positively connecting communities’ are written in giant letters on a wall that overlooks our office space. It’s hard to miss them. These three words feature on every one of our vans around Australia and New Zealand – and they also happen to be our mission statement.

It might come as a surprise that we don’t use the terms ‘laundry’, ‘showers’ or even ‘conversation’ in our mission – because what we do is all about connection and building relationships.

We often share stories of connection through friends like George, who come down to shift every week for a chat on our six orange chairs.

Or volunteers like Helen, who are so generous with their time and are passionate about giving back to the community.

This week, as part of Homelessness Week (August 4 – 10), we wanted to highlight some of the amazing service providers that we work alongside every day. Our vans operate at more than 250 locations across the country – and we (literally) could not do what we do without the support of so many incredible partners.

We spoke to a few of them about why it’s important to work together to better support our friends while they’re doing it tough.

Sonia | Sunny Street

“We’ve found the collaborative approach to be the best way to provide care. We didn’t want to duplicate any service, so we linked in with groups and we found that there was a huge need and a massive outcry for healthcare in these spaces. That wrap around model is absolutely vital to accessing services for people who are homeless.”

Melanie | Share the Dignity

“If we all work together, we can make amazing things happen. No one organisation alone has all the answers, but if we all do as much as we can, we can go a long way to tackling the problem [of homelessness].”

Steve | Community Support Frankston

“For us, it’s about looking at initiatives that are already going on, engaging with different groups and being able to co-locate and have different partnerships. We’re all on a similar mission, it’s about helping people that are really disadvantaged and giving them a bit of a leg up.”

Maxine | Warrawong Community Centre

“If Orange Sky didn’t do their thing and us as a small community [centre] didn’t do our thing, I think there’d be more people who are homeless.

There’s a fine line between having a home and a family, and when your life can just turn in a fraction of a second and you could become homeless. I don’t think people get that.”

Pastor Sigi | Seventh Day Adventist Church

“We’re trying to connect with our community in all facets, at all levels. Up here in Darwin, we have a lot of long grass mob… they’re going from day to day just trying to survive. We want to try offer a service that not only helps them but also encourages our young people, our own members and our community to get involved.

For a lot of these folk that are here… this is the highlight of their week, and we’re glad that we – along with Orange Sky and everyone that we partner with – are able to give them that service. It may only be a small gesture, but to them it means a lot.”

Dianne | St John's Crisis Centre

“As I say to people, I would love to go out of business but unfortunately it’s a growing business. We’re getting more and more people in crisis, whether it’s domestic violence victims, people that have lost their jobs, mental health, drug and alcohol issues – it’s a myriad of different things that cause people to come to our centre.

It’s really important for people to be aware of the problem of homelessness, because it’s quite hidden from our society today. The atypical homeless person with the beard and the trolley – it’s not like that anymore. It could be you or me walking down the street, no one would know. Community awareness is really really important.”

Lydia | Our Community Place

“Orange Sky has been absolutely beneficial to our service. We’ve seen a few more families come through now, and I think having Orange Sky here, they’re able to stay here a little bit longer and chat and we’re able to explore in depth some of the issues and be able to support them longer term. It’s been a real vital service here.

My background is in community development, I love being out there in the community and just identifying gaps and being able to support where ever possible.”

This week around Australia, Orange Sky will support and connect friends by providing more than 1,000 loads of washing, 150 hot showers and 1,600 hours of genuine conversation. But, thankfully, we are not in this alone.

Friends who come along to Orange Sky shifts also have the opportunity to access other essential services that are run by people who understand the importance of building a stronger community.

One in 200 Australians don’t have a place to call home tonight. The only way to support everyone who needs it is work together and positively connect the community as one.