Inching closer to Christmas, Nottingham is celebrating the festive season with vending machines for its rising homeless or rough-sleeping population of more than 400. The vending machine is provided by Action Hunger, a UK-based charity organization, providing 24/7 access to fresh fruits, sanitary towels, socks and more. The Friary, a Nottingham-based charity organization and outreach center, has partnered with Action Hunger in Nottingham to oversee people’s access to the vending machine using their special key cards.

An illustration of an Action Hunger vending machine placed in a neighborhood.

Courtesy of Action Hunger

Supermarkets, charities and local shops deliver excess food that they have to Action Hunger. Action Hunger also purchases additional items such as socks and sanitary towels. Volunteers then distribute the food and items across the network of vending machines everyday. Those in need will be able to access the machines using a special key card programmed to vend up to three items per day. The key card system is designed to prevent singular dependency on each vending machine. “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’s website reads.

In 2016, the British House of Commons found that homelessness across the country was “undoubtedly” increasing. “The most visible form of homelessness is rough sleeping, with people sleeping in and living on the street, in parks and in shop doorways,” reads their statement. “However, there is also a significant number of people who are homeless but are in temporary accommodation and night shelters, or rely on a series of short-term arrangements and the kindness of friends and family.”

An illustration of an Action Hunger card to access the vending machine.

Courtesy of Action Hunger

According to Action Hunger, the proportion of people sleeping rough in England amounts to 0.16 per 1,000 households, which is up from 0.08 in 2011. Applications to local authorities for help with homelessness have also risen to 27,803 applications in 2016 from 21,317 in 2011.

This is not the first time this year that a UK-based charity organization has taken a novel approach to helping rough-sleepers. In July, London-based social enterprise, Café Art supported a new coffeeshop that was opening in Turnpike Lane to employ homeless people in the British capital. The coffeeshop is run by social enterprise Shine Haringey, which wanted to open up a Shine Café in the heart of the North London town of Haringey. The coffeeshop is said to help train locals suffering from homelessness, mental illnesses and drug and alcohol abuse in the art of coffee-making. They believe that this experience will not only provide those employed with jobs, but also enable them to build skills, character and confidence.