On any given night in Australia there are more than 116,000 people experiencing homelessness. They are couch surfing in other people’s homes or sleeping rough on the streets.
I once met a woman who said she was lucky enough to have a gym membership and a car when she became homeless. Her husband played the stock market and lost badly. The bank took their house. She came home from work one day and found they had changed all the locks. She had no idea that he’d gambled their life away.
She would stay at the gym until they closed their doors and sleep in her car at night. In the morning she would have a shower there before she went to work. No one knew for months.
She said it was surprising who ended up on the streets. While there were many struggling with mental illness as well as drug and alcohol addictions, there were also people who once had every advantage in life.
About four years ago, two mates were in a garage in Brisbane talking about the need they saw in their community. They were Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi. A couple of twenty year olds who wanted to do something to help people sleeping rough in their neighbourhood.
“Our eyes were open to the need of the homeless and we wanted to help others in that situation. Many of whom were there because of one or two unfortunate turns in their life,” Nic explains.
“Everyone has a basic human right to to be treated as a person, to be treated with dignity, to have access to clean clothes and shelter.”
The best part of the project isn’t just the clean laundry, but the time spent talking and building friendships while the clothes are being washed and dried.
“We wanted to provide a free service to the homeless. To clean their clothes. But what we discovered was the heartening conversations we began having while we waited for the clothes to be cleaned,” says Nic.
“Sometimes the simple things in life, like having a good chat, can be overlooked. But we’ve found that it’s the small things that can have a profound impact on a person. Our volunteers are there to not only help provide a laundry service, but also a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on.”
An inspiration behind this project is a song, Orange Sky by Alexi Murdoch. Its lyrics speak of a world weary traveller dreaming of walking with someone under an orange sky. He draws his strength from his companions who walk beside him, sharing the long journey home. The message of the song is about the support we get from the human connections we make and how we can all help each other along the way.
We walk past the homeless begging on the streets, hoping not to make eye contact because their needs may be too great for us. It must be difficult to be seen and ignored; to be avoided by the hundreds who walk by. Maybe that hour of conversation while clothes are being washed, will nourish their spirit in ways we can’t imagine.
via the Daily Post: Song