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A vending machine for homeless people could be the way forward

A vending machine with essentials for homeless people has been set up in a shopping centre in Nottingham, UK.

The initiative, which seems to be the world’s first, will be soon implemented in other cities across the globe.

The unusual machine was deployed in the Intu Shopping center in Broadmarsh by a charity called Action Hunger. It dispenses fresh fruit, energy bars, water, sandwiches and chocolate and also stuff like socks, antibacterial lotion, toothbrushes, towels and books.

Items are bought with donated funds, and most of the fresh food comes from redistribution organisations that aim to reduce food waste.

To access the machine, users have a special keycard which Action Hunger’s partner organisations give out to people in need. These special cards are given in Nottingham by the Friary, an advice and support centre for homeless people.

To avoid dependency on the machines and to ensure resources are shared fairly, these cards only allow users to pick up three items per day.

“We want our low-cost solution to complement other services that are available, as engagement with professionals and local support services is instrumental to breaking the cycle of homelessness,” Action Hunger said in a statement.

Huzaifah Khaled, a 29-year-old Nottingham local developed the project while undertaking his PhD in law. He managed to persuade the people of the Friary to jump on board, and also was able to convince N&W Global vending – one of the leading companies in the sector – to partner with him by giving him a £10,000 machine to start his program.

There are voices that have criticized the new charity organization for making it easier for people to choose a life on the streets, instead of encouraging them to seek help at an official institution where they can receive healthcare and advice.

“We could have not put a limit on how many items people could receive, and not built in a system of checks. All of our users in Nottingham have to check in with the Friary once a week for their cards to continue working,” insists Khaled.

One hundred cards will be issued in the city, and Action Hunger expects to have 25-30 active machines in the UK by the end of 2018.

The program will be implemented in the US next year, with two vending machines being installed in New York and in Los Angeles. Other machines in San Francisco and Seattle will follow.

“I’ve had emails from people in Greece, Spain, Australia and China, all wanting to know more,” adds Khaled.

What do you think? Will you want one of these in your city?