Vending machines that offer homeless people food, clothing and hygiene products could be popping up in cities across Europe and the U.S. if efforts by the British charity Action Hunger are successful.

Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan likes the idea and is promoting it in Hawaii.

“It’s very basic and it’s a common sense approach,” Manahan said. “It might just be a good fit for us here in Honolulu.”

Action Hunger already installed a machine in the city of Nottingham, England, and has plans to set up another in New York this month before moving on to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, according to the organization’s website.

Honolulu City Council Member Joey Manahan. 8 feb 2017
City Councilman Joey Manahan thinks an idea that started in England could work in Honolulu. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Manahan, who represents Kalihi, introduced two resolutions Thursday. The first would establish a group to research how Honolulu can work with Action Hunger to install one or more vending machines. The second asks Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration to acquire machines and work with service providers to operate them.

Rather than feeding the vending machine money, users would insert a card provided by a nonprofit organization, Manahan’s resolutions say. Continued use of the card would require users to check in with the nonprofit provider weekly.

Key cards allow users to obtain three items per day, according to Action Hunger’s website.

Manahan called the vending machines a “tool of engagement.”

Service providers report that some homeless people are reluctant to accept services or enter shelters. If access to the machines is tied to regular visits to the nonprofit that operates them, homeless people might be more encouraged to use other services offered by the nonprofit. 

Manahan said the city would have to reach out to Action Hunger to inquire about either buying a machine or having one donated.

The administration would also need to contact a social service provider to collaborate on the project and determine where the vending machine should be placed and what it should items it should offer.

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