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Local organisations encouraged to become ‘welcoming spaces’ this winter

Published: Thursday, 26th October 2023

Local organisations encouraged to become ‘welcoming spaces’ this winter

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.

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.

Last year over 50 welcoming spaces were established across Stoke-on-Trent including The Hub at Fenton. The Hub has since stayed open as a welcoming space and has become a safe space for Fenton residents. It has used for activities from arts and crafts, digital skills support from volunteers to a covid-19 vaccine clinic.

Carole Kind from The Hub at Fenton said: “Our welcome space has benefitted many people in the immediate locality and across the Stoke South area. We initially set up as a winter offer but decided to continue with it throughout the year; as numbers increased so did our activities.  

“It not only provides a much needed safe, warm space for local people in the heart of the community but also an opportunity to reduce social isolation and make new friends. I’d encourage organisations to consider offering a welcoming pace to support the most vulnerable in their local communities.”

Councillor David Williams, cabinet member for community safety and resilience said: “We have seen first-hand the difference welcoming spaces have made. The Hub at Fenton is a fantastic example of this, it has helped reduce isolation, and assisted in signposting local people to vital support services.

“If you are a local business, community group or faith organisations and are not already signed up, I would encourage you to. In times of need our city should come together and support one another.”

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.

To sign up to become a warm and welcoming place, organisations are asked to fill in a short form: www.stoke.gov.uk/welcomingspaces.

Charlotte Bennett, Strategic Projects Manager from VAST said: “We saw an amazing response from organisations right across the city last year and we know many, like The Hub, Fenton provide fantastic support in their communities throughout these challenging times.  “VAST’s team are here to support organisations thinking about getting involved. For advice and support on setting up as a welcoming space please contact support@vast.org.uk.”

The full list of welcoming spaces across the city can be found at the VAST website: https://sottogether.vast.org.uk/cost-of-living-welcoming-spaces

This comes as the ‘Help is at Hand’ campaign was launched last month to support residents across the city through the cost of living crisis and winter months, with the support of public services, community and voluntary sector groups. For residents who may be struggling, www.stoke.gov.uk/helpisathand has helpful advice and support links.