Local businesses, community groups and faith organisations are being encouraged to step forward to offer ‘welcoming spaces’, to support residents during the winter months and rising cost of living.
The Stronger Together Through Winter initiative, a campaign by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, voluntary and community sector organisation VAST and businesses and groups throughout the city, is aiming to create a network of welcoming spaces over the autumn and winter through 2022 and 2023.
A welcoming space is a place of connection in the community, which can be established or newly created, such as a community centre, library, or place of faith, where people can meet up, socialise, and potentially access support relating to the cost of living.
A number of welcoming spaces have already been established across Stoke-on-Trent including all of the city council’s libraries in Bentilee, Hanley, Longton, Meir, Tunstall and Stoke, which will offer free wi-fi, use of computers, a place to charge mobile devices, a place to meet and have a warm drink as well as use of regular book borrowing services.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “Stronger Together Through Winter is a growing campaign that is bringing public services, voluntary and community groups, education providers and businesses together in a united response to support residents through rising energy bills, cost of living increases and the colder winter months. This work is already beginning to deliver, and I’m delighted to see our council library services become among the first welcoming spaces to be announced.
“These are locations where residents can meet in informal settings, have a chat, access advice and support and make use of services in a heated, welcoming environment. We know that the cold winter months can be an isolating time for some residents and that many households are feeling anxious about energy bills as the weather cools. We want people to know that there is support available to them if they need it, and that services are working together across public, voluntary, community and business sectors to help.”
Services available at each welcoming space will vary but may include: Access to support about money, welfare, and mental wellbeing, Community activities, Access to computers, free Wi-Fi, and charging points, Heated space.
Organisations that regularly open their doors and welcome people by providing them with a safe, warm welcoming place are asked to fill in a short form: www.stoke.gov.uk/welcomingspaces
Vicki Gwynne, operations manager at Middleport Matters Community Trust, said: “We’re pleased to have registered as a welcoming space, it is an important initiative in support of local communities. Our community building is located right on the main road in Newcastle Street in Middleport and we have lots of activities from support for young mums and their children to older residents looking to learn IT skills. We work to bring people together, support the health and wellbeing of local residents, help local businesses and promote employment opportunities, and care deeply about the environment around us. We’re open to all the community and encourage people to visit.”
If venues and organisations would like further information, they can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the Stronger Together Through Winter campaign can be found at http://sottogether.vast.org.uk