For people without homes, finding basic necessities like food, water, and toiletries can be a daily struggle. Homeless shelters are set up to provide these items to people who need them, but those resources are only useful when their doors are open. The nonprofit Action Hunger is experimenting with an alternative service that’s accessible 24 hours a day.
As Fast Company reports, Action Hunger has installed a vending machine inside the entrance of a Nottingham, UK shopping center stocked with contents meant exclusively for homeless consumers. To use it, visitors must have a card they can pick up from the local homeless center. Once their status has been confirmed, they’re given free access to fruit, sandwiches, socks, water, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and other basics. The can use the card up to three times a day and cardholders must check in with the participating shelter once a week to keep using it.
Huzaifah Khaled, the founder of Action Hunger, got the idea for the vending machine while commuting to and from Nottingham. In between his travels he had a chance to talk to the homeless people staying in the train stations and better understand their specific needs. He reached out to dozens of vending machine manufacturers before N&W Global agreed to donate a machine to the cause. It’s stocked with leftover food from local restaurants, charities, and supermarkets. When food runs low, the host homeless center can order refills via UberEats.
The vending machine is meant to supplement homeless shelters where they fall short, either because they’re closed for the night or running low on supplies. By requiring regular contact with the local services to use them, Khaled hopes the machine will act as more of a steppingstone for homeless users than a long-term crutch.
After receiving a donation of 100 machines, Action Hunger plans to expand their project overseas. The first stop is New York City in February, and after that there will be machines installed in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. If you’re interested in helping the initiative, you can visit Action Hunger to volunteer or donate.
[h/t Fast Company]