Inspiring

Vending machine dispenses free blankets for the homeless

It is available 24/7 and 100 percent free.

Image: RTV6

Image: RTV6

It's starting to get cold in the Northern Hemisphere and in many places snow is just around the corner. Getting warm clothing and other cold-weather essentials is important for anyone stepping outside this time of year, but for anyone living on the streets its a question of survival.

That's what the city of Muncie, Indiana recently inaugurated a vending machine that dispenses warm clothes and blankets for the city's 200 homeless absolutely free, 24 hours a day.

The vending machine does not take money, only tokens that are provided to those who need them. All they have to do is register at Bridges Community Services to get the tokens.

All the merchandise in the vending machine has been donated by members of the community. "That speaks about the community that we live in," Karee Buffin with the Bridges Community Services told RTV6.

Reaching all the homeless to let them know that help is available is the new challenge. "We know that they are out there. Some are in shelters, some are in different living situations," said Buffin. "We really want to use something like this to reach out to people. It does demonstrate that our community cares."

This is a first in the US but something similar is being done in Nottingham, UK. Last year, a vending machine that dispenses water, food, socks, and toothpaste and toothbrushes was installed in a shopping center.

The vending machine was the idea of Huzaifah Khaled who encountered many homeless in train stations when he was a graduate student. “I essentially developed a very deep understanding of their needs,” Khaled told .

After Khaled learned that the only way the homeless could get supplies was to go shelters that had very limited hours. “I realized that there had to be a more effective way of getting at least the bare necessities to them,” he said.

That’s when he came up with the idea of a vending machine for the homeless where they could get basic supplies 24/7.

Khaled founded and is the director of a nonprofit Action Hunger to make this a reality. The vending machine was donated by N&W Global Vending.  He partnered with Friary, a day center that serves the homeless and they are responsible for giving the key cards to access the machine to their clients.

Action Hunger hopes to expand these types of vending machines to New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The vending machines give immediate help, 24/7 to the homeless. They are only the first step. The organizations that sponsor them are trying to do much more to find a sustainable solution that will get people off the streets.

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