A vending machine for homeless people has just launched in the UK for the first time. 

The machine in Nottingham, which is accessible 24 hours a day, will offer a range of items from fresh fruit, to sanitary towels, to toothpaste, books, and socks.

If the scheme is successful, it could go global — with further machines planned for Manchester, London, Birmingham, New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles.

Take action: Help the Most Marginalised and Vulnerable Find Shelter

Created by the new Nottingham-based charity Action Hunger, the machine can be used with a traceable key card — 100 of which have been distributed among some of the most vulnerable members of the city’s homeless population. 

Action Hunger — which works alongside other homeless charities in Nottingham to help provide full-time access to food and clothing — has teamed up with outreach centre The Friary for the scheme. 

“We will be prioritising rough sleepers,” Friary CEO Sam Crawford told the Nottingham Post. “Not everyone who visits us is a rough sleeper, some are homeless in other ways such as those in temporary accommodation.”

“It’s an innovative way in which food and provisions can be made available out of hours to people in need,” he said. 

Read more: This Former Homeless Man Just Won a Place at Cambridge University

Action Hunger is also joining up with charity FareShare, which works to cut down food waste by distributing surplus supermarket stock, and has donated half of the items in the machine. Tesco is also involved in stocking the machines, according to the BBC.

The key cards used to operate the machine contain a chip that means they can be blocked or cancelled if they get lost, or are stolen. Each person with a card will be able to take three items a day from the machine. Those using the cards have to check into the Friary at least once a week to continue using them.

“Action Hunger is not seeking to supplant the incredible efforts of existing charities for the homeless — we’re seeking to work in concert with them,” charity spokesman Huzaifah Khaled told the BBC

“While other organisations can offer empathy and human contact and counselling … we solely provide unmanned vending machines,” he said. 

Read more: 6 Things We Care About More Than Big Ben’s Bongs Being Silenced

Homelessness has increased significantly in the UK according to the charity Shelter, which says 307,000 people now sleep rough on Britain’s streets — rising by 13,000 in the last year alone. In New York, around 75,000 people are homeless. 

Shelter said it received a call for help every 22 seconds in the lead up to Christmas last year, reported the Independent, getting more than 500 calls made on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone. 

And, according to charity Crisis, the number of people being forced into homelessness in the UK is predicted to more than double by 2041, based on analysis by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. 

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Demand Equity

The UK's First Vending Machine for Homeless People Has Arrived

By Imogen Calderwood