Last year it was announced that Nottingham would be getting a vending machine designed to be used exclusively by homeless people, with 24 hour access and offering them three free items every day - including essentials like toiletries, fruit, energy bars, and so on. Unfortunately, after just three months of operation, the machine has been removed.
While the vending machine, from charity Action Hunger, was praised for its approach to helping the homeless, it wasn't without its criticism. The concept was even referred to as a "vanity project" and "essentially pointless", while Labour councillor Toby Neal dismissed the possibility that it could be an effective tool for the homeless people in Nottingham:
"This is a well-meaning but misguided and ill-informed attempt to address complex problems faced by people with accommodation and health issues.
There is no evidence that it helps, and may distract people from finding long-term solutions..."
Meanwhile Conservative councillor Dr John Doddy, who is also a trustee for Action Hunger, criticised the removal saying:
"This will turn out to be a tremendous shame on Nottingham city, or perhaps even a national shame.
This is not some misguided adventure, this is a real contribution to the growing problem in this country."
The machine worked thanks to special key cards that were distributed by outreach centre The Friary. Homeless people could claim up to three free items every day, which were supplied by Action Hunger and surplus from local supermarket, and had to return to the Friary at least once a week to keep it activated. According to Sam Crawford, who works at the Friary, around 70 of the initial 100 cards were distributed while the project was well received by recipients.
Action Hunger said the decision to stop supporting the machine was a shame for Nottingham, though it's not clear whether it will be going ahead with plans to install other vending machines in cities across the UK and USA.