Why everyone needs connection

These past few years have provided many challenges and hardships for kiwis all across the country. At Orange Sky, it’s not just been about providing laundry and shower services, but finding ways for our community to stay connected; despite lockdowns and restrictions impacting us all.

Selwyn is one of the friends who we’ve been lucky enough to get to know during this time. Although sleeping rough when we first met him, he was still able to blow us away with his incredible street art that you can find around Auckland. 

Selwyn has now found a place to call home, and even has his own washing machine, but still comes along to shift every Monday evening to catch up with the team. It’s such a simple interaction, but it makes me realise how important connection and community really is to all of us.

Selwyn is one of thousands of Kiwis experiencing homelessness, but many more are disconnected from their community and in need of your support. Orange Sky currently operates 34 shifts a week across Aotearoa through a dedicated team of over 260 volunteers.

There’s never been a more important time for our vans to be out in the community supporting our friends doing it tough, and providing a safe and welcoming space to connect. 

If you are in a position to support our mission – whether that’s by making a donation or giving your time to volunteer – you will not only be helping to keep our vans on the road, but allowing us to grow our services and support more people doing it tough. 

Learn more about how you can support Orange Sky

Thank you for supporting our mission to positively connect communities – we couldn’t do what we do without you. 

Help us grow our services and support more friends like Selywn

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Meet Selwyn: Why kōrero is more than just a conversation

When we first met Selwyn on shift in Auckland, he was sleeping rough – as thousands of Kiwis do each night. But it wasn’t just free laundry and shower services that he found at shift, he also found a place to connect…

“My name’s Selwyn Vercoe. I descend from the Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Porou tribes of Aotearoa. 

The Orange Sky service is important because it serves a lot of people who need these services – like having a shower and getting your laundry done. 

I’ve been here where people have lined up to have a shower and get their laundry done [and] waited till about seven o’clock… that’s when I realised how important [the Orange Sky service] is for our street people. 

It’s humbling to witness how [the volunteers] express their hospitality to the community. They never judge. [Friends] can come here and enjoy the hospitality without fear or judgement. A lot of our street people have been products of the environment, so it’s good to have this type of service in the community where our street people don’t fear judgement.”

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Selwyn was one of the 41,600 New Zealanders experiencing homelessness. Orange Sky was able to support Selwyn during this time in his life by providing access to free laundry and shower services, as well as a place for kōrero on our six orange chairs. 

Although Selwyn now has a place to call home, he is still a familiar face at our Monday night shift. It’s no longer about doing a load of laundry or jumping in for a warm shower, but he’s still there to access a service that’s essential to all of us – connection. 

As part of our mission to triple our impact for people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage across the Australasian region by 2025, we plan to expand our services in Aotearoa.

But we need your help to support more Kiwis doing it tough.

Everyone needs connection.

Please, donate today.

Help us grow our services and support more friends like Selywn

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Orange Sky Wellington wins Rising Star Award!

Orange Sky is immensely proud of our Wellington team who have been awarded the Rising Star Award, thanks to Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards

With 41,000 Kiwis experiencing homelessness on any given night, there is still more work to be done. We are driven by our purpose to create safe and positive environments for friends doing it tough. Our Wellington service is more than the warm showers and clean washing facilities. It is built on the genuine connections built between volunteers and friends. Friends like John, who lost their income and house due to an illness putting him out of work. Volunteers like Nicola, who are passionate about helping the community and understanding the unique voices of our Kiwi friends on the street. 

The Rising Star category stood alongside incredible services in our Wellington community. We want to congratulate all finalists including:

🏆 Edible Earth Hampshire with WELLfed (Porirua)

🏆 Food 4 Thought (Upper Hutt)

🏆 Lower Hutt Muslimah Committee (Hutt City)

🏆 Zero Waste Otaki Zero Waste Ōtaki (Kāpiti)

Each week, Wellington volunteers do incredible work in the community, supporting our friends doing it tough. We are incredibly grateful for the time that they gift us and so proud that they’ve been recognised through this award. 

If you’re interested in learning more about your community, lending a hand or having a chat, check out this video below! To learn more about becoming an Orange Sky volunteer today, see more details here.

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Introducing van, ‘Whaea Debz’ to the Orange Sky family

After officially launching our third service in Aotearoa in November 2021, we have been on the hunt for a fitting name to honour our newest bright orange companion. 

We hosted a nationwide van naming competition, which called on Kiwis to honour a New Zealander making a difference in their community by submitting their name. 

After receiving more than 80 submissions nominating worthy local heroes, ‘Whaea Debz’ was given the top honour by our judging panel! 

The Auckland-based hybrid laundry and shower van is named after local community hero, Debbie Munroe, who is affectionately known as Whaea Debz. 

Debbie is the founder of Waka of Caring – a drop-in centre in Manurewa that provides food, clothing, blankets, books and connection for those experiencing homelessness or hardship.

Alongside Debbie were fellow finalists Fiona Anderson, whose support and volunteering within the Piha community spans 15-plus years, and Judge Andrew Becroft, a long-time legal advocate for the underrepresented in his former roles as Children’s Commissioner for New Zealand and Principal Youth Court Judge. 

The competition judging panel included the Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, Auckland City Mission Team Leader Homeless Service Wilf Holt, Orange Sky New Zealand Volunteer Nicola Kueh and Simplicity Charitable Trustee Frances Arns.

The naming of ‘Whaea Debz’ follows the Orange Sky tradition of honouring our vans with meaningful names – from inaugural Australian service ‘Sudsy’ back in 2014, to New Zealand’s first two hybrid vans: ‘Hugo’ in Auckland and ‘Hudson’ in Wellington.

‘Hugo’ honours The Hugo Charitable Trust, which allowed Orange Sky to start operations in Aotearoa. ‘Hudson’ is named after the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Wellington City Mission to acknowledge their generous support in launching the second Orange Sky service.

Local hero and youth worker, Debbie said it was heart-warming to be recognised by the community and have her name immortalised on an Orange Sky van.

“It was a beautiful surprise and an absolute honour to have one of the Orange Sky vans named after me. I don’t do it for recognition, I am just doing what I feel everyone should be doing – helping those who need our support,” said Debbie.

“I have been supporting the homeless, and those who are struggling, for 10 years now and it’s incredible to see how a meal and a warm, welcoming smile and kōrero can impact someone’s day.

“It is so simple to show someone kindness and turn their day around – the community is what brings us together,” she said.

The new van, supported by Simplicity Charitable Trust, enables Orange Sky to increase our availability in Tāmaki Makaura to support the nation’s most vulnerable communities.

Orange Sky New Zealand Operations Manager, Eddie Uini said the van naming submissions highlighted so many local heroes who are making an impact and creating a difference in their communities.

“In line with Orange Sky’s mission to positively connect communities, it’s an honour to recognise the individuals and organisations going above and beyond to support the community.

“The difference that Debbie and Waka of Caring have made in the last 10 years is nothing short of inspirational, and we’re pleased to be able to recognise all the incredible work by naming our third van after her.”

Read more about Debbie’s incredible community work here.

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A third set of wheels to support New Zealanders doing it tough

It’s been nearly two months since we launched our third service in New Zealand, and we’ve already seen the impact of what another set of wheels can do across Auckland!

Supported by Simplicity Charitable Trust, a second laundry and shower van is now making its way around the streets of Auckland, allowing us to increase our weekly shifts from 17 to 25.

From the launch of our very first van ‘Sudsy’ in Australia back in 2014, to our two vans in New Zealand, Hugo and Hudson, every Orange Sky van is given a name. With the arrival of our new Auckland van, we asked the community to help us pick a name by recognising and celebrating a fellow New Zealander. We received some incredible submissions, with judging currently underway to decide whose name will live permanently on our bright new orange van! Stay tuned for the announcement later this month.

So, why Auckland?

There are more than 41,000 Kiwis doing it tough, and nearly half (43.9%) of those people reside in Auckland alone. This includes people without shelter, and those living in temporary accommodation, shared accommodation and uninhabitable housing (2018 Severe Housing Deprivation Estimate – updated).

Orange Sky operates 38 services across Australia and New Zealand, and Auckland is consistently our busiest service across the fleet when it comes to the number of loads of laundry and warm showers that our volunteers provide. 

Orange Sky New Zealand Operations Manager, Eddie Uini said the addition of a third van would help the team manage the ongoing demand, as Kiwis continue to endure the impacts of the pandemic.

“The last 12 months has really brought Aotearoa’s homelessness to the forefront and we have witnessed a strong demand from friends, especially here in Auckland,” he said.

“We know the past year has been particularly challenging as more people struggle to pay for basics like food and rent. A survey we conducted recently with YouGov found that in the past 12 months, one in five Kiwis have struggled to make ends meet each and every week.

“With the addition of a second van, we’ve been able to operate in more locations, and help more friends in the community who are struggling financially and/or socially.”

What’s next for Orange Sky?

In line with Orange Sky’s five year vision, we’re planning to triple our impact and help more than 40,000 friends across New Zealand and Australia by 2025. Since launching our first service in Auckland back in 2018, we’ve been planning for how we can grow our impact to support more Kiwis experiencing homelessness.

​​In 2022, we have plans to expand our reach across New Zealand and welcome a fourth service to support those doing it tough. To keep up-to-date on all things Orange Sky and our expansion plans, be sure to follow us on socials.

Help support the launch of future services across the country.

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New friends, a new van, but the same special connection

What a whirlwind 2021 has been! Hugo and Hudson (and the soon-to-be-named third van) have had a huge year – as well as all of us living here in Aotearoa.

To say we’ve all been through a lot over the past 12 months would be an understatement – but I couldn’t be prouder to be part of the Orange Sky team. Every volunteer, supporter and friend has made our community stronger than ever; despite lockdowns, restrictions and temporary shift pauses.

Connection has continued to remain a core value at Orange Sky – and I have had the pleasure of making new friends this year, including Howie.

I first met Howie at a Salvation Army shift in West Auckland and this year, we have been able to celebrate him finding safe, permanent housing – after almost three years of living in his van. Howie shared with me how difficult the experience was – far removed from the fun and freedom of a short-term campervan holiday.

The best part is that even after finding housing, Howie still comes to shift – not for the washing, but for the connection. And if we’re lucky, he even cooks a boil up for the friends on shift!

As an essential service, we will continue operating throughout the holiday season and hopefully spread a little bit of joy through positive connection and conversations – at what can be a difficult time of year.

It just so happens that the shift Howie attends is the same one my Dad and sister volunteer at – so I look forward to celebrating with Hugo and Howie on Christmas Day at the Salvation Army. After shift, we will head north to join whānau at Warkworth, some of who we haven’t seen since the last Level 4 lockdown.

I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you for being part of the Orange Sky community in 2021. After what’s been a huge year, I hope you are able to enjoy time with your family and loved ones over the holiday period.

Wishing you a Meri Kirihimete!

These holidays, help more people like Howie.

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How Orange Sky gave me dignity

Howie lived in his van for over three years after struggling to find safe, permanent housing. He described the experience as having “its ups and downs,” but meeting the Orange Sky volunteers and engaging with our Auckland service made a huge difference. Here’s Howie’s story.

Hi, I’m Howie; I’m Maori from Ngāpuhi descent. I’m a proud person. I live in Beach Haven, which is known as a posh area, but I ended up living in my van for three years as I struggled finding housing.

I spent all my life in Beach Haven, playing or coaching rugby for the Northcote Tigers. After we sold our family home, I struggled to find safe and permanent housing.

I think that a lot of people who have never been through homelessness can’t really understand what it’s like. Some people would think I was lucky living in my van. It’s alright for three weeks, but not three years. My living situation had its ups and downs; the downs were pretty tough. At times, I virtually only had my dogs to talk to.

But good things also came out of me living in my van. I met a wide variety of good people – people experiencing the same situation as me, and people helping people like me. Meeting Orange Sky was like a godsend. Each Saturday morning visiting the orange van was like my big day out! Washing my clothes, having a shower and a chat gave me dignity. And people weren’t judging me for my situation or my skin colour; they just gave me moral support.

About three years, or 1,265 days after living in my van, I finally got a place. But I keep coming back to the orange van because I miss the people. It’s not just the showers, it’s the people.

I hope I can give back to my community and work with an organisation out here. I just know what people out on the streets are going through. You can still be a proud person who wants dignity when you’re living on the streets. But a lot of people don’t want to ask for help, they get overwhelmed. I hope I can help bridge that gap.

Homelessness doesn’t rest over Christmas, and holidays can be a particularly tough time for our friends on the street. If you’d like to help ensure that friends, like Howie, can continue to be supported over the holidays, please consider a donation today.

These holidays, help more people like Howie.

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New research shines a light on homelessness in New Zealand

Every day across New Zealand, Orange Sky volunteers have conversations on our six orange chairs that support people doing it tough. We recently commissioned a YouGov study to help shine a light on the challenges faced by Kiwis today, which revealed that a growing number of New Zealanders are struggling to make ends meet. So, let’s talk about it…

More than 41,000 Kiwis were experiencing homelessness at the time of the 2018 Census, but new research has exposed the vulnerability of many New Zealanders in 2021 and growing number of people who are doing it tough. More than one in five (21%) Kiwis have personally experienced homelessness, while 19% know someone who has. Worryingly, half (51%) of New Zealanders say they struggle to make ends meet at least once a year, with one in five (20%) struggling to make ends meet each and every week.

This past year has been particularly challenging, with the pandemic impacting mental health and economic hardships across New Zealand. More than half (51%) of the population struggled to pay their bills, with 15 per cent admitting they’ve had to forgo meals to make rental payments. Despite this, nearly one in four (23%) say they have felt too ashamed to ask for help.

Orange Sky supports people who find themselves doing it tough by providing a safe and welcoming place on shift to sit down and connect. Homelessness is a complex issue, and while we don’t have all the answers, we aim to positively connect people through free laundry, warm showers and genuine conversation. From many years sitting around our orange chairs on shift, we’ve learnt just how easily a simple conversation can impact a person’s life.

We know that for many, homelessness can happen in the blink of an eye; in the past year, one in five (18%) Kiwis say they have felt isolated from their community.

There’s never been a more important time to support Kiwis doing it tough. For the first time this year, we’ve launched The Sudsy Challenge in New Zealand – an initiative that aims to wash away the stigmas surrounding homelessness by challenging people to wear the same clothes for three days, talk about homelessness and raise funds and awareness for Orange Sky.

Get involved by joining hundreds of other Kiwis embarking on the first New Zealand Sudsy Challenge!

Sign Up for The Sudsy Challenge

New Zealand Operations Manager, Eddie Uini, said that while clean clothes can make a world of difference to someone’s life, it’s the hours of conversation and genuine connections made with Orange Sky friends that make the biggest impact.

“Orange Sky has given me the opportunity to not only help people doing it tough by providing essential services, but also allowed me to connect and support them on a more genuine level,” said Eddie.

“The Sudsy Challenge is a fun and easy way for Kiwis to step out of their comfort zone and support those in the community who are experiencing homelessness. Through conversation and raising awareness, we have an opportunity to support our friends doing it tough.”

Participants can take part in The 2021 Sudsy Challenge over one of three weekends in September, or any three days in September, October and November.

Are you ready to take on the challenge?

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One Year Since Pausing Shifts in New Zealand

A lot has happened since my journey with Orange Sky began almost three years ago. Growing up, I never thought that I would be so excited for my days to be filled with washing clothes (as I’m sure my poor mum could attest to!). Every day, I have something to look forward to, but still some days can be quite challenging…

This week marks 12 months since we pressed pause on both of our services in Auckland and Wellington due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It almost felt surreal; two and a half years of being out on the streets, seven days a week, building relationships and trust with our friends was seemingly undone by an invisible enemy in such a short space of time.

I’ve always been passionate about helping others and very aware of people doing it tough in my own community. That’s what drove me to help launch Orange Sky’s first ever laundry and shower van in New Zealand. I grew up in Manurewa, South Auckland, where a lot of people sleep rough on the streets and struggle to find stability and assurance in their life. Many don’t know where they’ll sleep at night or when the next opportunity for a shower or to wash their clothes will be.

That desire to help out our friends and ensure that everyone has a place to connect has fuelled Orange Sky’s recovery in a COVID-19 world. It’s hard to grapple with the idea of friends not being able to bring their washing to shift, volunteers not having a way to give their time, and supporters not being able to see their impact in the community. The second we paused shifts, we knew we needed to innovate and find ways to help our friends.

One year on, our service might not look the same as it did pre-COVID, but that unwavering commitment to support our community remains unchanged. From that very first shift back just four weeks after pausing our services, we’re now operating 24 shifts a week across New Zealand – more than we were before the pandemic. Just last week, we recorded the highest number of washes that we’ve ever done in a week at 153. This is a testament to not only the hard work of our volunteers, but support from our amazing community.

On shift in Auckland this week, I had the chance to catch up with Terry; a long-time friend who previously used our services. I’m so thankful to share that during the pandemic, Terry was able to find accommodation and have a safe place to sleep at night, but I’m also just as thankful that we now have the opportunity to sit down on orange chairs on shift and catch up on life, just like we always have.

The decision to pause services will go down as one of the toughest times in our history, but it’s moments like this on shift when I’m reminded of exactly why Orange Sky exists.

We believe everyone deserves access to basic hygiene, as well as a place to feel welcome, included and connected. If you’d like to support Orange Sky and the work we do, you can do so in a number of ways. We’d love if you could watch and share our video below, consider making a donation to Orange Sky or sign up to become a volunteer.

Help us ensure that everyone has access to basic hygiene

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Orange Sky's first international van

In early 2018 in our Brisbane headquarters, we had a crazy idea to launch Orange Sky’s first international van on 10 October 2018 – exactly four years on from our first ever wash in Australia. We knew that homelessness had become a growing challenge in New Zealand and hoped that we could take some of our learnings from Australia and connect some of the 41,000 people we heard were doing it tough.

The road to launch as not a straight line and we needed a lot of help along the way. Legal loopholes, funding agreements, finding a ship, building the van, finding volunteers – it was what we were used to but everything was just that bit different, enough to second guess why we were doing this in the first place. Luckily enough we had local expertise and a growth mindset that allowed us to apply learnings and collaborate and feel confident our learnings from Australia were going to be transferable.

I first met Eddie when he came to Brisbane for our vehicle leaders summit in late August 2018. I had already heard a lot about him from Jo and Emma (our CEO and CFO at the time) and had a good feeling about him. Eddie is gentle, passionate, strong and his passion for helping our friends in New Zealand is beyond parallel.

I knew that we had made the right decision when he stood up in front of 30 relative strangers, shared a story (and a tear) and showed how vulnerable and meaningful he could be in talking to people about his future at Orange Sky and his vision for the future.

In early 2018 in our Brisbane headquarters, we had a crazy idea to launch Orange Sky’s first international van on 10 October 2018 – exactly four years on from our first ever wash in Australia. We knew that homelessness had become a growing challenge in New Zealand and hoped that we could take some of our learnings from Australia and connect some of the 41,000 people we heard were doing it tough.

The road to launch as not a straight line and we needed a lot of help along the way. Legal loopholes, funding agreements, finding a ship, building the van, finding volunteers – it was what we were used to but everything was just that bit different, enough to second guess why we were doing this in the first place. Luckily enough we had local expertise and a growth mindset that allowed us to apply learnings and collaborate and feel confident our learnings from Australia were going to be transferable.

I first met Eddie when he came to Brisbane for our vehicle leaders summit in late August 2018. I had already heard a lot about him from Jo and Emma (our CEO and CFO at the time) and had a good feeling about him. Eddie is gentle, passionate, strong and his passion for helping our friends in New Zealand is beyond parallel.

I knew that we had made the right decision when he stood up in front of 30 relative strangers, shared a story (and a tear) and showed how vulnerable and meaningful he could be in talking to people about his future at Orange Sky and his vision for the future.

We now have two vans (Auckland and Wellington) and I have had a chance to visit a few times over the last two years. I will always remembered that first wash we did in Auckland and it has helped me continue my passion for helping people whether that is in Australia, New Zealand and…who knows where next.

What I know is that people all over the world are struggling with human connection and hygiene. Orange Sky has a blueprint that can really support people who are struggling. Nic and I never want to stop helping people and we will always make it a priority to find new ways to support as many people as possible.

Support our friends doing it tough

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