Homelessness charity Action Hunger has launched a vending machine to give folks who sleep rough on city streets round-the-clock access to essentials such as food and clothing. The free-to-use service has been two years in the making and went into operation last week. It will run as a month-long trial at a shopping center in Nottingham, UK.

Though no accurate head count is available for people who are living on the streets in the UK, homelessness charity Crisis says that government street counts and estimates can give a clue of the scale of the problem, reporting that the "latest figures showed that 4,134 people slept rough across England on any given night in 2016."

Many organisations exist to offer advice, shelter and assistance, but access to such services may be limited by daytime only opening hours. Nottingham-based Action Hunger aims to offer essentials to those in need 24 hours per day, by way of a self-service vending machine which began a month long trial use period on December 19.

The machine stocks such things as fruit, snacks, sandwiches, sanitary products and small items of clothing, and everything is being made available free to homeless people via a key card system.

According to The Guardian, most of the fresh food is being supplied by redistribution organisations, while other items will be bought using donations. Each key card will allow homeless users to get up to three items per day, a limit set by Action Hunger so that folks don't become too dependent on the machine.

The vending machine is located at the Sussex Street entrance of the Broadmarsh shopping center in Nottingham, but key cards will be issued to locals through its partner, The Friary advice center in West Bridgford.

Action Hunger, which has Professor Stephen Hawking CBE as its patron, says that a machine is to be installed in Manchester soon, and that it has had interest in the project from councils all over the UK, as well as expressions of interest from the US, Canada and Europe.