By Tony Whitehead
The mall at Gosford is a hive of activity in on a Wednesday night with a mobile laundry service and a busy mobile food kitchen, all run by volunteers, working together to help local people in need.
Orange Sky , a national mobile laundry service which works throughout Australia and now into New Zealand, says on its website that 116,000 Australians are experiencing homelessness or doing it tough on any given night.
“We turn up everywhere working within communities to wash and dry anyone’s clothes for free,” Orange Sky volunteer Sally Briten* said.
Orange Sky is about laundry and conversation. The work is all done by specially picked volunteers who connect with people through genuine and non-judgmental conversation. They place half-a-dozen orange chairs at the back of the van and it all happens, it’s brilliant.
The laundry service works in combination with Coast H.A.N.D.S. (Helping Aussies with Natural Disaster & Shelter), a community support organization that runs the food kitchen in conjunction with Orange Sky at the William Street mall in Gosford on Wednesday evenings from around 5:30pm.
There are tables and donated clothes on racks. People of all types gather around enjoying the meals on seats, against walls in groups or by themselves, socialising, talking, laughing.
One interesting, soft-spoken lady confided in me about her distressing living situation.
“My daughter stays in the car,” the woman said. “She’s too embarrassed to be seen as homeless now, and I’m afraid the police will take my children away.“
Coast H.A.N.D.S co-ordinator Micah Weekes, known locally as “Bullet”, is a very passionate force who has experienced homelessness himself.
“We took over the service in 2019 to keep things going,” said Weekes. “We always work with Orange Sky here every Wednesday evening.
“We organise frozen meals, supply five schools, a local neighbourhood centre and a lot more. We even have someone turning up here doing hair cuts.”
To see these people in action is quite moving and powerful. The organisation is based in Gosford and works with a very impressive list of organisations – including Sydney Blanket Patrol, Central Coast Disaster Relief and Pass it on clothing – and the general public ensuring people doing it tough on the Central Coast are looked after.
Coast H.A.N.D.S also appreciates and acknowledges how important all the awesome everyday Coastie families are that donate clothes and incidentals to help those in need.
(* Sally Briten – real name withheld for privacy)
Feature Image: Coast H.A.N.D.S working with Orange Sky at Gosford. Picture: Tony Whitehead