Warm Hubs are opening up across East and South London to provide welcoming, heated spaces where people can shelter from the winter weather.
Community spaces are providing hot food and drink, books, games, computers and other facilities, free to anyone who wants to drop in.
David Fothergill, of the Local Government Association, said: “We know that some people may choose to limit their heating use due to the impact of rising energy bills.” He also said the scheme “could help save lives”.
The Warm Welcome Campaign began last year in response to the biggest cost of living crisis in 70 years. Their page collects information on warm banks across the country, with over 3000 listed.
You can find your nearest hub through their interactive map, with information about amenities and opening times. Spaces are running in all ELL boroughs.
In Lewisham, libraries and community groups are offering over 50 Warm Welcome spaces, with a variety of services available across the week. Charity Lewisham Local has mapped all of the spaces and listed their opening times.
New Cross Learning library hosts a warm bank on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. They received a grant of around £9000 to set up last year, and £1000 this year to keep it running.
Gill Hart, who has worked at the library since running the campaign to save it in 2012, told Eastlondonlines: “We get people every day we’re open. The biggest thing about warm banks is that people come in to communicate with other people. Often single people who live by themselves will come in for a chat.”
There is tea, coffee, biscuits, soup and porridge on offer. Warm bank users can also make use of the other library services, such as free benefits advice and CV writing workshops.
Hackney Council this year awarded £40 000 to 14 community partners who “provide a warm welcome to anyone living in Hackney”. Residents can enjoy a range of activities from film screenings at Hackney Quest on Monday afternoons, to a cooking club at Stamford Hill Community Centre on Fridays.
Croydon’s warm spaces can be found here. On Saturdays at 12:30, a free three-course meal is provided by FoodCycle at St Alban’s Church from food that would otherwise go to waste. Harry Cavendish from FoodCycle told ELL each of their centres can feed 25-30 people weekly.
He said: “We are not a food bank, but a lot of people who come to us are struggling to afford food, or just want some company.”
Croydon Mayor, James Perry, said: “We are grateful to all the local organisations who are opening their doors to support people during this time. We encourage people to visit our friendly warm spaces and also use them as a social space so that no-one feels isolated or alone.”
In Tower Hamlets, warm hubs will be open from December 11. Most will be hosted in the council’s Idea Stores, as well as community libraries and a church. You can see the seven opening up in Tower Hamlets mapped here.
Tower Hamlets council told ELL that over 22,000 visits were made to their six warm hubs last year.
The majority of libraries across the country are hosting warm banks this year – over 90% of libraries surveyed by the Guardian reported that they would.