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The UK's first vending machine for homeless people has been installed – here’s how it works

Posted by
Tom Victor
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At this time of year, with the weather getting colder, it’s impossible not to notice the plight of the country’s homeless people.

The number of rough sleepers is thought to have doubled in the UK between 2011 and 2016, according to a Department for Communities and Local Government report issued earlier this year, while the number of homeless people in temporary accommodation means the overall homelessness figure is even higher.

A number of charities have helped address the issue, with the help of volunteers and donations, while London’s Euston Station will become a temporary homeless shelter on Christmas Day, but the country’s homeless population still undoubtedly find it hard throughout the year.

And, as those sleeping rough struggle to fight against stigma and attempts to police how they spend their money, we’ve seen one charity come through with a new addition to Nottingham town centre that could make a real difference this year when it comes to helping with essentials.

Action Hunger have installed their first ever vending machine for the homeless, which is thought to be the first of its kind in the world.

The machine, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, distributes items including water, fresh fruit, energy bars, crisps, chocolate, and sandwiches, as well as socks, sanitary towels, antibacterial lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste combination packs, and books.

Action Hunger say on their site that the machines are designed to entitle the most vulnerable to “the most basic of needs – sustenance”.

Charity trustee Huzaifah Khaled said Nottingham was chosen as the location of the first machine “because it’s the city that I grew up in and have a deep affinity for,” and if the project proves successful then further machines are likely to be installed in Manchester, London and Birmingham in 2018, as well as in the United States.

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What the new machine looks like

The machines can only be accessed through special key-cards, which are handed out to the homeless by the charity’s chosen partners.

In Nottingham, that partner is outreach centre The Friary, whose CEO Sam Crawford told The Mirror that rough sleepers would get priority. Those who receive key-cards will need to check in to The Friary on a weekly basis.

Food is provided to Action Hunger by supermarkets, charities and other local stores with excess produce, with this making up approximately 50% of the produce in the machines. The remainder, including clothing and sanitary towels, is purchased by Action Hunger.

The machines are stocked and restocked on a daily basis by volunteers, with the goal of ensuring the homeless individuals using the machines are always able to get the items they need, up to a total of three items per day.

As Action Hunger states: “The preceding measure is designed to prevent singular dependency on our machines — 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.”

(Images: Action Hunger)