Orange Sky Laundry – a Brisbane-based charity that offers a free mobile laundry service for the homeless – has been forced to pause its services across Australia for the next three weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Source: Pro Bono News.
By Luke Michael, Pro Bono News
Co-founder Nic Marchesi said the pandemic was hurting some of the most marginalised people in the community.
“People who are experiencing homelessness are already socially isolated,” Mr Marchesi said.
“And our vans rocking up and providing a safe space to have a shower, wash your clothes and most importantly, have a chat, unfortunately can’t happen at the moment.”
Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith said that for people sleeping rough, self-isolation was impossible.
“You can’t self-isolate on the street. You certainly can’t self-isolate without a secure home, at least for the period of self-isolation,” she said.
“If there was any hand sanitiser you had, you can’t really keep that in your back pocket.”
Ms Smith said advocates were pushing for governments to make sure crisis accommodation was available for vulnerable people.
She added that homelessness organisations were grappling to get the balance right between continuing to be there for the most vulnerable in the community, while also keeping staff safe.
“And that’s why it’s terribly important to not only have additional support, but also to find accommodation so people at risk of having the virus can self-isolate successfully,” Ms Smith said.
“People need bathroom and kitchen facilities, and support to get food and health services.”
Mr Marchesi agreed that it was extremely difficult for people to self-isolate when they were experiencing homelessness.
He said the charity sector and governments needed to think of innovative solutions to get through the crisis.
“Never before has hygiene and connection been more important to the world, and yet people who don’t have a home face the challenge of not having safe places to isolate or support networks around them,” he said.
“So I think it’s definitely going to be a challenging time.”
'You can't self-isolate on the street' (Pro Bono News)