Orange Sky Laundry Service in Nowra

Volunteers Deborah Hodgson, Vicki Wallace and Mark Smith love helping their friends.
Volunteers Deborah Hodgson, Vicki Wallace and Mark Smith love helping their friends.

Putting on a clean pair of clothes can you you feel so much better but when you are homeless having a friend to talk to is also important.

Homeless people in the Nowra area are treated with kindness and care each Wednesday when the Orange Sky Laundry van comes into town.

They are treated with respect and not judged just because they don’t live in a house.

Orange Sky Laundry Service manager, Jo Matthews, said it was important everyone was treated with care.

“Basically we wash and dry clothes for the homeless people and we term them as our friends - we don’t call them homeless people,” she said.

Orange Sky Laundry  is a charity organisation and they come down each week from Wollongong and Shoalhaven based volunteers also help.

Washing and drying takes time which is why the service manager said they also have orange chairs.

“The orange chairs are a really important part of our service and this is where we sit down and have conversations with our friends,” she said.

“A chat is the number one thing and the washing is secondary.”

Orange Sky Laundry has been coming down every Wednesday for over a month and sets alongside the Shoalhaven Homeless Hub in Junction Street.

“It has been really well received down here and we just saw a need to come down here because there really is not much down in this area and so we thought we would give it a go,” Jo said.

Shoalhaven Orange Sky volunteers

They do up to five to six washes a shift.

“It's all about dignity, respect and basically just positively connecting our friends back into the community,” Jo said.

“They are people and everyone has a story and quite often they will share that with us.

“Sometimes it take a little while to build up that trust but we found out that down here people are very quick to divulge information to us - more so than in Wollongong.

“I don’t know whether that is because there is a lack of resources down here and they don't have the opportunity to do that (talk) as much down here.”

Orange Sky Laundry is the world's first free mobile laundry service for the homeless.

It started in 2014 with two washing machines and two dryers in a van to wash and dry clothes for free.

It started in Brisbane and Orange Sky now services Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sydney, Sunshine Coast,  Perth, Adelaide, SE Melbourne, Wollongong and Hobart.

Orange Sky Laundry now does over 6.9 tonnes of laundry every week.