Vending machines give homeless some independence back

March 26, 2018

Vending machines give homeless some independence back

Jacob Topia hopes vending machines for the homeless are on their way to the Auckland CBD. Photo: Zoe Madden-Smith

An Australian charity is hoping to inspire New Zealanders to use vending machines to help stop shame preventing homeless people accessing basic needs.

Goodna Street Life (GSL), an independent charity in Queensland, has installed two 24-hour vending machines outside its Ipswich op-shop to give people living in poverty access to basic necessities.

From food and dental hygiene kits to sanitary products and thermal blankets, nearly all of the items are donated by the public and cost as little as 10c.

GSL vice president Steven Purcell says the initiative gives people a chance to take ownership of their needs without sacrificing their dignity, independence or self-esteem.

“A lot of these people are just trying to get their lives on track, but a lot of the charity processes at the moment can be a bit dehumanising for some people, which makes it confronting and sometimes shameful or embarrassing to ask for a hand,” says Mr Purcell.

Ngawhainga Kiriona, a chronic homelessness advisor and co-ordinator of Rotorua’s Pouhine Charitable Trust, says she sees people’s shame get in the way of them receiving vital care and resources every day.

“The majority are older aged and long-term homeless who have been through many years of being belittled and ridiculed by individuals in the community,” says Ms Kiriona.

Jacob Topia has been living on Auckland streets for 18 years and says he still finds it hard to ask shelters for help.

“I’ve always wanted to be independent,” says Mr Topia.

“I try not to go to City Mission much ‘cause I don’t want to get stuck relying on anyone. I want to do it myself.”

Mr Topia says he would definitely use specialised vending machines because it would mean he could afford to feed himself and maintain his independence.

Since establishing the project three weeks ago, GSL has caught the eye of 10 Australian and two New Zealand organisations - Rotorua’s Pouhine Charitable Trust and Emergency Accommodation Taupo (EAT).

GSL says it supplies a readily accessible proposal that outlines costs and strategies so anyone can start up their own vending machines.

Mr Purcell wants to get as many people on board as possible because it would be cheaper and more effective as a co-operative.

Renee Gray, the founding manager of EAT, says she is investigating where to source affordable vending machines locally.

Despite being declined funding by the Taupo District Council, Ms Gray says GSL’s proposal makes this initiative achievable if the community pitches in.

Ms Gray says the vending machines would be a great help when drop-in centres are closed on weekends.

Read more about the GSL social initiative proposal here.

And hear more of Zoe Madden-Smith's interview with Steven Purcell here:

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