First there was San Francisco-based Lava Mae that came up with the brilliant idea of mobile showers for the homeless, and now two Australian youngsters that have created a similar laundry service for those down on their luck.
Brisbane residents Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi who have been volunteering at the city's charities for several years, came up with the concept in July 2014, after noticing that when the organizations handed out free clothes, many homeless people took more than they needed, only to discard them over the next few weeks.
Upon investigating further, they realized that it was simply because the clothes were dirty. Though there are two places in the city that provide a free washing service, one is open only three days a week, while the other is always booked. Even if the services were available, there is the issue of the distance the people would have to travel, to get to them. While commercial laundromats are certainly an option, most homeless do not have money to spare for "luxuries" like laundry. Hence, a mobile laundry seemed to be the perfect solution.
Setting it all up was not easy. The first challenge the engineering students faced was figuring out how to fit two washers and dryers into the old van they bought for their mobile laundromat. Their bigger challenge however was getting the city to approve them as a charity. But Lucas and Nicholas were determined and by October 2014, Orange Sky Laundry was open for business!
They currently offer their services at six locations. All are close to the food vans that provide nourishment for the city's 300+ homeless each day. While there was some initial skepticism, it was short-lived. In the last four months, Lucas and Nicholas have not only been able to help scores of homeless people, but also attracted 120 volunteers and even received corporate sponsorships from Korean appliance manufacturer LG Electronics, a detergent supplier, as well as a servicing company. With their support, the young men hope to set up similar services in fifteen Australian cities including Cairns, Melbourne, and Sydney, by the end of 2015.
Lucas and Nicholas say that the experience has been very gratifying and also allowed them to meet smart people who are just down on their luck. They hope that their innovative charity which is attracting a lot of attention, will help shed light on the plight of Brisbane's homeless and maybe even help them get back on their feet, with some help from the ever growing network of volunteers.
As for the name "Orange Sky"? Turns out that orange happens to be their favorite color and also the title of their favorite song. Composed by British singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch, it is all about helping others - a perfect choice for this selfless endeavor.
Resources: Dailymail.co.uk, fastcoexist.com