Homelessness is not something that is caused suddenly by one single incident. It is the result of a build-up of unresolved problems over time. Whatever the reasons may be doesn’t matter in the end. What is important is that these people get at least basic necessities for survival – those of sustenance. They have obviously had it rough already even before they became homeless. These troubles have led to the loss of a roof over their head, a basic life necessity. It shouldn’t result in their death as well, which is what would happen if it wasn’t for the admiral compassion of some thoughtful people.
Shelters and organizations are a lifesaver for sure. There is one downfall to them though. They run on hours of operation and cost a lot of money. To overcome this dilemma is how the novel idea of vending machines to dispense free items (basic necessities) for homeless came to light.
The first machines to do this appeared in Nottingham, UK last year thanks to a man named Huzaifah Khaled. When he was a graduate student he came across many homeless people every day in the train stations commuting to and from university. “I essentially developed a very deep understanding of their needs,” Khaled said.
He became curious about how the system of helping these people dealt with providing them with the basics. That’s when he discovered that the only way the homeless could get supplies was to go to shelters but these places had very limited hours. “I realized that there had to be a more effective way of getting at least the bare necessities to them,” Khaled said. Feeling compelled to lend a hand, he came up with an idea – vending machines where they could get basic supplies 24/7.
To make his idea a reality he founded and is now the director of a nonprofit organization called Action Hunger. The first machine was installed at a shopping center that dispenses water, food, socks, toothpaste and toothbrushes. The vending machine was donated by N&W Global Vending. More have gone up since then around the city that dispense water, fresh fruit, energy bars, crisps, chocolate, and sandwiches, as well as socks, sanitary towels, antibacterial lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste combination packs, and books.
The machines dispense items via a key card that can be acquired through the Friary, his partner organization, a day center that serves the homeless. Action Hunger is meant to be an additional help on top of what the shelters are already doing. The individual who gets a key card is required to return weekly to the Friary to reactivate it. This continued engagement with professionals and local support services is key to breaking the cycle of homelessness.
This year the idea has reached America. A city in Indiana called Muncie has installed vending machines to dispense clean clothes and blankets for the homeless for free. All they have to do here is register for help at Bridges Community Services and they’ll receive tokens accepted at any machine.
RTV6 news channel reports the latest homeless count has reached as many as 200 people without a permanent residence in Delaware County. “We know that they are out there. Some are in shelters, some are in different living situations,” said Karee Buffin with the Bridges Community Services Fund. “We really want to use something like this to reach out to people. It does demonstrate that our community cares.”
What’s special about this project is that every item inside the vending machines has been donated by members of the community. “That speaks about the community that we live in,” said Buffin.
Bridges Community Services is currently accepting donations for the vending machines. If you’d like to donate you can contact Karee Buffin at 765-282-3948 ext 222.