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The world’s first vending machine for the homeless
It’s a sad truth about modern life that for everyone who has a warm and welcoming home there are large number of people who have no home at all. Britain’s homeless this winter are headline news with new government pledges to increase funding to provide them with suitable accommodation, but this a long term problem and the people behind the charity Action Hunger in Nottingham has provided part of the solution, the world’s first vending machine for the homeless of the city.
Nottingham’s rough sleepers can now visit a shopping centre in the city and by using a special key card can access the vending machine for items such as food, water, warm clothes and sanitary products. In exchange the homeless must attend local support services once a week to keep the key card active.
The man behind this new scheme is Huzaifah Khaled, who developed the scheme over the last two years while studying for a PhD in Law at Cambridge and Harvard. The spark of inspiration behind the scheme came when he talked to homeless people while waiting for his train on his daily commute. He wrote to a number of vending machine companies one of whom agreed to provide him with a new unit, at the same time Intu, the shopping centre group, agreed to provide space for the machine in its Broadmarsh shopping centre, where homeless can access it 24 hours a day.
Another local charity in Nottingham, Fairy, assess each homeless persons needs and give out the key cards accordingly, but ask that the rough sleepers come into their centre at least once a week in the hope that the charity can find them proper, safe accommodation away from sleeping on the streets. Yet another charity, FareShare source the food for the machine from supermarket surplus produce that would otherwise find its way into landfill and be wasted.
Tech giants such as Google have offered help to Action Hunger and have used their advanced artificial intelligence (AI) ‘Brain’ to analyse how the vending machine is being used to further improve the service it provides. Other large partners include Amazon and US giant Tyson Foods.
Action Hunger plans to roll out more vending machines for the homeless throughout 2018 with sites already secured in Manchester, Brighton and Kings Cross in London.