Paul Schokker lived on the streets, on and off, for more than five years. It’s not something he shared with everyone … before agreeing to take on Orange Sky’s The Sudsy Challenge.
During the challenge, participants are asked to wear the same clothes for three days to raise money for Orange Sky - the world’s first free mobile laundry and shower service for people experiencing homelessness, which began in Brisbane in 2014.
It started with a single van named ‘Sudsy’, built by Orange Sky co-founders Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett.
Paul started living on the streets when he was 13 and a half in the early 1980s.
“I didn’t have a bad childhood, I didn’t have bad parents. I was a rebel – plain and simple. You couldn’t contain me and I didn’t get along with mum and dad,” he recalls.
“I fell into the wrong crowd.”
He says his family had moved to Townsville and he managed to scrounge the money he needed to get back to Brisbane.
“I hooked up with street kids in the Valley and lived on the streets on and off for five and a half years,” he explains.
He recalls receiving some help from the Salvos, but organisations like Orange Sky didn’t exist and he remembers washing his clothes in a water fountain in King George Square.
Paul started taking drugs and became addicted to heroin. The salvos put him through two detox programs, before he kicked it.
He says he moved to Sydney after ‘cleaning myself up’ and at the age of 18 decided it was time to get a job.
That job ended up being with Lowes Menswear, where he met the woman who would become his wife and help keep him on the straight and narrow.
They have since built a successful business – In-Tec Commercial Cleaning, which is based at Brendale and Paul is its managing director.
Paul likes what Orange Sky does because the organisation provides practical support to homeless people.
“One fundamental this is that just because someone is homeless, doesn’t mean they don’t want to live on the streets. Some people choose to live on the streets,” he explains.
“But there’s also a lot of people who may only be two steps away from living on the streets. These people need help.
“To me, it’s the organisations that get it. Homeless people want help, but they want the help they want,” he says.
Having clean clothes is important, particularly in summer.
Paul says he doesn’t usually share his story with many people, but the fundraiser has provided an opportunity to raise awareness of a complex issue.
“A lot of my team didn’t know my back story. They all found out about it (through this),” he says.
It has prompted discussion about the issue and made them understand the challenges facing people who are homeless.
He and his team, eight people in total, have raised $3200. It’s double their target, but they are keen to hit $10,000 next year and involve more members of staff across the business.
“It did bring back some memories,” he says.
“I went the whole-hog. I didn’t change anything for three days and I spent the last day gardening.”
Now in its third year, participants can take part in The 2021 Sudsy Challenge in one of three
weekends in September, or any three days in September, October and November.
Last year, more than 1300 individuals, schools and companies took part,
raising over $340,000 for Orange Sky services across Australia, including in remote
For more information and to get involved in The 2021 Sudsy Challenge, visit
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