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More than 24 tonnes of laundry a stark reminder of escalating homelessness on Coast

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A free mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness has reported a staggering increase in demand.

Orange Sky has received about 24.83 tonnes of dirty laundry on the Sunshine Coast this year, almost 20 per cent more than this time last year.

The charity’s co-founder and executive director, Lucas Patchett, said more people than ever were using the service, to access a load of washing, a warm shower and a non-judgmental conversation.

“Our volunteers did more than 400 additional loads of washing, equating to 4.11 tonnes of additional laundry,” Mr Patchett told Mal Cayley on his Homes for Everyone podcast last week.

Orange Sky, dubbed the first charity of its kind in the world, launched its laundry van ‘Mikey’ in 2017 and the charity runs services from Caloundra to Noosa.

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It has 103 volunteers and operates 11 shifts per week.

“That includes an increasing number of services in suburban areas like Maleny, which typically, we never thought would need to access our services,” Mr Pratchett said.

The laundry van named ‘Mikey’ has been in operation for about six years.

“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-judgmental conversation is equally important, with our volunteers engaging in more than 2700 hours of conversations this year.”

Orange Sky co-founders Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett.

Mr Cayley, the head of research at Direct Collective, said rental and housing supply was evident from the coastline to the hinterland, and the human toll of the crisis could not 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 3000 locals already or about to find themselves in this situation,” he said.

“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.

The service runs from Noosa to Caloundra.

“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 region’s rental crisis reflects a national issue, with Domain reporting that an estimated 70,000 rentals are 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,” Mr Cayley said.

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