A UK-based charity has announced plans to roll out the world's first vending machine for homeless people.
100 rough sleepers across Nottingham will have 24-hour access to the machine which will be placed outside the city's Broadmarsh shopping centre in the run up to Christmas. Action Hunger said the machine will dispense items such as sandwiches, toiletries and fresh fruit and can be accessed using a traceable key card.
"We chose Nottingham because it's the city that I grew up in and have a deep affinity for, but we do plan on installing [a vending machine] in Manchester in January, then London and Birmingham," said charity trustee Huzaifah Khaled.
The charity will use unused food donations from local shops and supermarkets and distribute to vending machines. Action Hunger says it will purchase other items such as socks and sanitary products.
100 key cards are being dropped off at Nottingham homeless charity the Friary who have been selected as the scheme's partner. Key card holders will be able to purchase three items per day.
"We will be prioritising rough sleepers," said Friary CEO Sam Crawford. "Not everyone who visits us is a rough sleeper, some are homeless in other ways such as those in temporary accommodation, so that would be who we would prioritise."
"It's an innovative way in which food and provisions can be made available out of hours to people in need."
Those using the scheme will need to check in with the Friary once a week to maintain access to the vending machine.
Action Hunger has said it has plans to launch similar vending machines in US cities such as LA, New York and Seattle. "But everything hinges on how this does in Nottingham," Mr Khaled added.
Homelessness in the UK has surged since 2010 owing to cuts in welfare and public services. The number of families in temporary accommodations across England has increased by 60% since March 2011, according to a recent report by National Audit Office (NAO).
"It is difficult to understand why the Department persisted with its light touch approach in the face of such a visibly growing problem. Its recent performance in reducing homelessness therefore cannot be considered value for money".