The Warm Welcome Campaign came to life last winter, in the depths of the worst cost of living crisis in 70 years, and emerged as a collective response to resource, champion and connect Warm Welcome Spaces in every community across the UK. And last winter warm spaces hosted nearly 2.5 million individual visits, that’s about 150,000 visits a week. Whilst many people came to Warm Welcome Spaces for the warmth, they came back for the welcome, the sense of belonging and the connection that they found.
When the clocks went back at the end of October, thousands of Warm Welcome Spaces started to open their doors to their local communities, offering everyone a friendly space to keep warm, connect, and make new friends. The winter is especially tough on people who feel lonely and isolated, and for anyone who can’t afford to heat their home or get enough to eat. We want everyone to access a warm and welcoming space, to connect with others, make new friends, and feel part of their local community, so no one has to face poverty or isolation alone.
The ongoing cost of living crisis means that millions of people are having to make tough choices between eating or heating. Food prices are still rising and as temperatures start to drop the prospect of paying for energy bills makes staying financially afloat seem like an impossible challenge. This week we heard the news that the Energy Price Cap will rise 5% from January 2024, the coldest quarter of the year. It means that the UK faces a tough winter ahead, and the lack of a government energy bill support scheme this year means communities will be hit even harder.
Warm Welcome Campaign Director, David Barclay says:
“This winter will once again see millions of people having to choose between heating and eating, and having the lifeline of a warm and welcoming space in their community will make all the difference. But Warm Welcome Spaces are not just a sticking plaster on poverty, but places of dignity and connection. You don’t go there as a ‘service user’, you go there as a guest and as people get involved and get to know each other they forge lasting friendships and often end up becoming volunteers and hosts themselves. People help each other in Warm Welcome Spaces, and that sense of agency is crucial. “
This year nearly 3000 Warm Spaces have registered with the Warm Welcome Campaign, and we are supporting them with resources, information, and fundraising opportunities to help them deliver their lifeline work. Warm Spaces need funding to keep their doors open. The majority are charities and rely on donations, local authority funding and support from charitable trusts and foundations to provide their local communities.
Last week, David Barclay visited Holy Trinity Church in East London, one of the thousands of Warm Spaces delivering vital support to their communities They run a much-needed Community Food Share. David shared some reflections on the warmth and welcome Holy Trinity Church offers. He joined them to watch the Community Food Share in action:
“Around 100 people of every age and background sit patiently in groups while the volunteers race to unpack the food and set things up. “We usually do this before we open the doors!” Vicar Polly tells me. But with music playing and cups of tea and coffee flowing, nobody seems too agitated. Indeed, the whole design of the Community Food Share system is to enable people not to rush or to feel like they’re just getting a handout, but rather to connect and spend time together.
Holy Trinity runs a Community Food Share. They operate as a Warm Welcome Space. But what they really are is a Haven of kindness. And we all need somewhere like that in our lives.”
Christmas can be a challenging time, especially for anyone who is feeling lonely or is worried about heating their home and feeding their family. This year Warm Welcome is partnering with Eden Communities to bring the Big Lunch at Christmas to warm spaces across the country. It’s an opportunity to bring people together and share friendship, good food and some festive fun by hosting The Big Lunch at Christmas this winter! The magic of Warm Welcome Spaces starts by sharing a cuppa or some food and sparking up a conversation. Sharing food, fun and a warm drink can create magic in communities and who knows where it might lead.
The Warm Welcome Campaign has an online platform to support everyone who wants to open a Warm Space in their community, and offers spaces access to support, resources, funding opportunities and help to get their space ready for winter. You can find out more about Welcome Warm and register your space here.
Anyone who is feeling lonely or is struggling to keep warm this winter can find their nearest Warm Space via an online map