NOTTINGHAM – Being a daily commuter from Nottingham to Cambridge, Huzaifah Khaled has managed to develop a special bond with the homeless, who usually take refuge in train stations.
“In the UK, train stations are almost magnets for homeless people,” Khaled told The Washington Post.
“When I’d be waiting for trains, walking to and from the train station . . . I came into contact with a lot of them.”
Taking the road along lengthy 90 miles, Khaled talked with the homeless, bought them coffee, and over time, developed relationships with them.
“I essentially developed a very deep understanding of their needs,” said Khaled, who recently got his Ph.D. in law.
“I realized that there had to be a more effective way of getting at least the bare necessities to them,” he said.
Enlightened about the challenges they face, Khaled developed an idea for a vending machine for the homeless, offering a 24/7 pit stop where people can access free food, clothing, and other basic supplies.
Over the past two years, he devoted weekends and evenings to the project, all the while working toward his Ph.D.
“I speculatively approached over 50 manufacturers across England and Europe — most ignored my proposal, a few politely declined, and just before I was about to give up and try to raise funds to buy a machine instead, [N&W Global Vending] responded to my letter and invited me to pitch the idea to them,” he said.
“They came on board almost immediately afterward.”
N&W Global Vending, one of the world’s largest vending companies, gave Khaled a 10,000-pound, or about $13,000, machine free.
Khaled also reached out to the Friary, a day center serving the homeless in the Nottingham area, who now works as a partner organization to Action Hunger, giving out keycards to its patrons.
Khaled hopes to expand quickly across the country, as well as across Europe and the United States.
“Homelessness has become so accepted in our society that we often don’t even look at these people,” Khaled said.
“In an ideal world, I would never have needed to start this charity,” he said. “I would love nothing more than to shutter this charity next week.”