An astounding amount of dirty laundry has given a stark insight into the escalating homelessness crisis on the Sunshine Coast.
Orange Sky, a free mobile laundry service, has reported a spike in demand for its services across the region, delivering more than 400 additional mobile loads this year, taking the total to close to 25 tonnes of washing for local homeless people.
Speaking to Mal Cayley on his Homes for Everyone podcast last week, Orange Sky co-founder and executive director Lucas Patchett says since launching in 2014, more people are using the charity’s services than ever before, as they seek to access a load of washing and a warm shower.
“We have operated a similar number of shifts year-to-date as we did at this time last year – only (an) extra 25 shifts – but our volunteers did more than 400 additional loads of washing, equating to 4.11 tonnes of additional laundry,” Mr Patchett says.
“That’s almost a 20 per cent increase.
“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.
“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.”
Mr Patchett says volunteers have also engaged in 2700 hours of non-judgmental conversations across the Coast shifts this year.
Mal Cayley, head of research at Direct Collective, says that 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 3000 Sunshine Coast locals already or about to find themselves in this situation,” Mr Cayley says.
“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 Coast’s rental crisis reflects a national issue, with an estimated 70,000 rentals required to bring Australia’s housing market back to equilibrium, a new Domain report states.