HOMLESS SUPPORT: Orange Sky will next month launch its free shower and laundry van on the Northern Rivers.
HOMLESS SUPPORT: Orange Sky will next month launch its free shower and laundry van on the Northern Rivers.

Van to provide mobile laundry, showers for homeless in region

HAVING free shower and laundry access could be life-changing for vulnerable people sleeping rough in the region.

Homeless support group, Orange Sky Australia, will next month launch such a mobile service on the Northern Rivers.

But before they do, they are calling for some local help.

Co-founder Nic Marchesi said the group had been keen to get back to support locals doing it tough since helping out after the 2017 floods.

"We work within a 60km radius of the van's home base which means we can cover areas like Byron Bay, Lismore, Ballina and Bangalow," he said.

"But we can do our best to be flexible depending on the changing needs of the people doing it tough in the region."

There were 1494 people homeless in the Northern Rivers on Census night in 2016 with a further 1370 in marginal housing.

"People who access the service have the opportunity to build genuine relationships in a reliable place with volunteers who understand where they are at in their life," he said.

"The focus is on creating a safe, positive and supportive environment for people who are too often ignored or who feel disconnected from the community.

"Our volunteers are not social workers or experts on homelessness - they are empathetic listeners and great conversationalists."

Don (the nickname for the van) has two commercial washers and dryers in the front and one shower in the back.

With its on-board power and water, it can provide many showers and washes during the shift - usually two or three hours in length.

"The washers are very easy to use and have self-feeding laundry liquid," Mr Marchesi said.

"This gives our volunteers the best opportunity to do what they do best: sit and have genuine conversations with our friends."

He said the service was open to anyone who needed it.

"Simply turn up to one of our shifts, we have a schedule that you can access on our website at orangesky.org.au/locations," he said.

"We visit the same place, at the same time, each and every week, so you'll always find the same friendly faces on shift."

He urged anyone who loved to have a chat and had two free hours a fortnight to get involved.

"To join the team or to donate, sign up on our website at orangesky.org.au and we will let you know when the next training session is available before the van is launched on February 27," he said.


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