Shower and laundry van launch amid cost of living crisis

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Orange Sky Aotearoa, a non-profit organisation supporting vulnerable communities and homeless people, has now opened up in the South Island for the first time, launching in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

“So far in Otautahi we've done 60 washes, 21 showers, and there's been like 280 hours of kōrero,” says Steph Owens, one of the volunteers for Orange Sky.

The new Christchurch van joins the existing Orange Sky fleet of two vans in Auckland and one in Wellington to provide free mobile laundry shower services for people experiencing homelessness or doing it tough.

“I’ve always thought it’s really hard living on the streets, especially during winter,” Owens says.

“And I can relate to not having enough money to not live comfortable at times. So I don't want to live in my home while people are on the streets having a hard time.”

More than 41,000 New Zealanders were found to be homeless at the 2018 Census, and an Orange Sky YouGov survey last year found Kiwis doing it tough. One in five have personally experienced homelessness, and 20 per cent struggle to make ends meet every week.

Connecting with people

Another volunteer, Wendy McCulloch, says it's not just the laundry and shower service that attracts people to the kaupapa.  

“A lot of them come here not just to get their washing done but also just to have a conversation and connect with people. And that's what's really important, to build that connection with them, and they really appreciate our talk and to have familiar faces."

Owens says it’s not only the homeless who benefit from the service.

“It's also people who maybe don't have access to a laundry or their machine is broken and during these times where the cost of living is very expensive, it is so much more important than ever before,” she says.