The world’s first free mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness Orange Sky, has reported a spike in demand for its services across the Sunshine Coast, delivering more than 400 additional mobile loads, taking the total to close to 25 tonnes of washing for local homeless people this year, as housing supply in the region continues to plummet.
Speaking to Mal Cayley on his Homes for Everyone podcast last week, Orange Sky Co-founder and Executive Director Lucas Patchett OAM said since launching in 2014 more people are using the charity’s mobile services than ever before, as they seek to access a load of washing, a warm shower and a genuine, non-judgmental conversation.
“If we zoom straight into the Sunny Coast, we have operated a similar number of shifts year-to-date as we did at this time last year – only extra 25 shifts – but our volunteers did more than 400 additional loads of washing, equating to 4.11 tonnes of additional laundry – that’s almost a 20 per cent increase,” Mr Patchett said.
“Our laundry van ‘Mikey’ launched on the Sunshine Coast in April 2017 and runs services all the way from Caloundra to Noosa. We now have 103 volunteers operating 11 shifts per week on the Sunshine Coast, including an increasing number of services in suburban areas like Maleny, which typically, we never thought would need to access our services.
“COVID supercharged so many things for so many people, and now with the rental crisis and the cost-of-living crisis, there is so much more demand on services.
“We’re seeing more and more people come down who would have never thought they would use our service before. The demand is absolutely going through the roof and we’re just doing the best that we can to respond.
“And it’s not only the laundry service that’s being accessed, for many the opportunity to have a genuine, non-judgemental conversation is equally important, with our volunteers engaging in more than 2,700 hours of conversations across our Sunshine Coast shifts this year.”
Mal Cayley, Head of Research at Direct Collective, said as the rental and housing supply slump creeps from the coast to the hinterland, the human toll of the crisis cannot be understated.
“The incredible volunteers who deliver Orange Sky’s services are helping those who find themselves on the streets, and we’re looking at close to 3,000 Sunshine Coast locals already or about to find themselves in this situation,” said Mr Cayley.
“But when you start understanding the impact of other people who are couch surfing – and even the impact on the people whose couches they’re surfing on – as well as all those people living in cars, they might not even admit to themselves that they’re homeless, but they have a declining ability to find somewhere to live. This starts creating an unstitching of the fabric of our local community and that has very serious consequences.
“Homelessness and the rise of homelessness is not a personal failure, it’s a policy failure.
“The rental and housing crisis is a complex web of factors, including government interventions that exacerbate supply shortages, reductions in social housing, discouraging policies for residential property investors, complex zoning regulations and insufficient local government planning.
“We need more homes of all types – affordable and high-end, and for renting and buying – and we’re not getting the approvals and solutions we need to fix the current problem, never mind the 200,000-plus additional people who will call the Coast home in the next two decades.”
The Sunshine Coast’s rental crisis reflects a national issue, with an estimated 70,000 rentals required to bring Australia’s housing market back to equilibrium.
“The reality is we need to get angry now, as a country, to force change from our politicians and bureaucrats and then we need them to take carriage and do it.”
1 Based on community surveys extrapolated by Direct Collective and provided by Mal Cayley.