More families seek help from free laundry service designed for homeless

By Jessica Tyson

Orange Sky is a non-profit organisation, providing a free mobile laundry and shower service, for people experiencing homelessness.

But operations manager Eddie Uini says more people, including families, are using the service during this lockdown.

“Especially out in the suburbs, out south and west, we’ve seen a lot of families doing it tough. So obviously our services provide to people on the streets but there might be a family with a roof over their heads but if they can save $10 to $20 at the laundromat, then that’s another $10 or $20 of food on the table.”

Uini says the reality is that there are a lot of families who may have lost an income since the current lockdown started.

“It can be really hard and confronting to see that this is happening in our own communities. It could have been mine, it could have been me in this situation, my family in this situation, he says.

“It’s sad to see how much of a need there is but also encouraging at the same time to see how many people have gotten out and supported and keen to support people in this situation.”

Orange Sky launched its first van in New Zealand in Auckland in 2018, followed by a second van in Wellington a year later, in October 2019. As part of its three-year anniversary, it will launch a new van in Auckland this week.

“Our current van has been going out two or three times a week, so it will be good to have another one to be out to support it.”

Uini says volunteers and staff ensure they are sticking to social distancing rules by having cordons, wearing gloves and masks, and maintaining social distance.

“[It] can be hard sometimes because a big part of what we’re trying to do is provide a connection for people but as long as we can still provide that in a safe place not just for our volunteers but for people using our services.”

He says if anyone needs help from Orange Sky to visit its website. Information about the service is also displayed on billboards and at bus stops around Auckland and Wellington.

“For now the dream has always been that everyone in New Zealand that needs access to a washing machine or shower would have access to one of our vans. So keep an eye on this space in the South Island and other areas we’re not in yet. We expect to have a few vans coming your way,” Uini says.