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Two Australian Friends Turn Their Van into Free Laundry Service for the Homeless

Fresh, clean laundry is one of the most comforting things in life, but unfortunately not everyone has access to it. A couple of engineering students from Brisbane are trying to change that. They’ve started Orange Sky Laundry – Australia’s first mobile laundry service for the homeless.

20-year-old Lucas Patchett and his friend Nicholas Marchesi were inspired to start the service during an overseas trip. When they got back in July, they decided to stop talking about it and just do it. So they got an old van fitted out with two donated industrial washing machines and two dryers, which can wash and dry 20 kilograms of laundry in an hour.

Getting the machines to fit in the van wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but they managed it pretty well. “The architect who helped us said: ‘they’ll probably fit’, but we found we needed to build a platform above the wheel arches – it wasn’t very scientific but we ended up banging the wheel arches out a bit and taking some panels off. We squeezed them in,” said Lucas.

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“It kind of tied in with engineering in that it’s innovative, it’s not wanting to do the same old, same old. We’re still at a stage where people see us and are kind of like, ‘what’s going on here?’ But word is definitely getting around and the feedback has all been positive.”

The average cost of a wash at a laundromat in Brisbane is around $5 to $6, which Lucas says is a lot of money for someone without a roof over their head. That’s why the Orange Sky van is completely free of cost for the city’s 300-odd homeless people. The van is currently in a trial period, operating in six test locations in Brisbane’s Central Business District, five days a week. It sources water from local parks and businesses. They also plan to partner with local food groups, so that the homeless can get something to eat while their clothes are being washed.

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“We’re trying to link in with some of the morning BBQs and food vans offered by different groups around the city each day,” said Lucas. He admitted that it has been kind of difficult to set up a schedule with the homeless, because most of them are kind of hesitant at first. But once they warm up to the guys, they seem to appreciate the service quite a bit. Lucas said that he enjoys being able to sit and chat with interesting people as their clothes are being washed. “I was chatting with a guy the other day who used to be a chemical engineer. It’s just a very grounding experience to see how quickly things can go wrong for people.”

Lucas revealed that the name ‘Orange Sky’ is inspired by their favorite color, and it’s also the name of a song they really love by Alexi Murdoch. “The song is about helping your brothers and sisters and Nic and I, not in a religious way or anything, but we live our lives by the golden rule of treating others as we’d want to be treated and living to help other people. Everyone deserves clean clothes, right?”

The duo hope to operate Orange Sky Laundry throughout Australia by the end of 2015. They also want to get more supporters and have school kids volunteer in the van. Their ultimate goal is to raise hygiene health standards and help the integrity of homeless people. And it appears to be working: “I feel fresh,” a homeless woman is reported to have said, after getting her clothes washed.

Photos: Orange Sky Laundry/Facebook

Source: Yahoo News via Buzzfeed

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