How a vending machine packed with food and toiletries could help the homeless

( Image: Action Hunger )
( Image: Action Hunger )

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Homeless service providers in Honolulu dole out toiletries, food, and other necessities to homeless people -- but it's not round-the-clock.

British charity Action Hunger is trying a novel approach in Nottingham, England. It set up a free vending machine stocked with small food items, toiletries like toothbrushes and toothpaste, and clothing items like clean socks and underwear. Homeless individuals can access it anytime day or night.

"The response has far surpassed our expectation," Action Hunger founder Huzaifah Khaled said.

City Councilman Joey Manahan wants to try it here.

"We're opening up a new hygiene center out in Iwilei. I would consider putting one there and I would talk to other service providers who may be interested in putting it in their facilities," he said.

Bruce Pinkerton has been homeless in Honolulu for four years. He'd appreciate a vending machine.

"I think it's a darn good idea, especially for simple things like toiletries, daily necessities and stuff," he said.

In England, service providers distribute key cards for the machine and stock it with supplies. To keep their clients engaged with social services.the cards can be cut off if they drop out.

Helping Hands Hawaii CEO Jan Harada likes the concept but urges the city to thoroughly examine the idea.

"I think you've got to make sure it's in the right location. You have to make sure the whole idea of linking them with service providers works, and not just one or two but all service providers," she said.

The card allows the holder to get up to three items a day.

Khaled said 100 homeless people in Nottingham have the cards and the machine is used regularly.

"The machine really is affording these men and women more dignity. I've met many of our users in person and they are incredibly appreciative," he said.

He said so far the machine hasn't been vandalized.

New York will be the first U.S. city to try one.

"I think the main thing is really just to see if we can get those vending machines here to see if it would work here in Honolulu."

Manahan plans to ask Action Hunger to donate a vending machine for a pilot project. He will present his proposal to the City Council Budget committee next week.

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