The Salvation Army offers a warm welcome
The initiative run by the Salvation Army will see the church and charity in West Street open every Thursday between 10am and 2pm for members of the public to come in and take a seat, helping them to save on heating their own homes.
Salvation Army team lead Corps Sgt Major Pam Clark said: “We are all aware that people are struggling – we can already see from the numbers increasing at our weekly Food Ministry (food bank) that people’s budgets are stretched to the max.
“There is a lot of fear as people watch the price of heating their homes rocket and they are telling us they won’t be turning their heating on.
“Although the weather has been quite mild so far this year, as it gets colder we anticipate we will have more people through our doors.
“The idea of the warm space is not only to offer somewhere for people to sit and keep warm so they can save money, but we also hope to help tackle loneliness and isolation by giving people a place to meet, connect with others and develop friendships.
“We’ll also be offering hot drinks and toast.
“Myself and our wonderful team of volunteers will be on hand to help people if they are struggling elsewhere or need signposting to another service.
“We hope to also use this as an opportunity to connect with people in the community.”
The warm space is part of the “Warm Welcome” campaign, a network of organisations who are opening their doors to provide a space for people to stave off the cold.
People will not be able to pick up food parcels on a Thursday, but Wath Salvation Army also runs its food ministry outreach every Wednesday morning between 9.30am and noon, offering food parcels and toiletries, with around 20 people now coming in every week.
To qualify, people need a referral from an agency such as a doctor or social services, or can self-refer presenting proof of benefits.
Food parcels vary each week depending on what is donated by The Salvation Army congregation, members of the public, local supermarkets, businesses and more recently schools with their Harvest Festival collection.
One food ministry user, named as Andy, said: “The first time I came, they gave me two bags of food.
“I don’t come every week because some weeks we’re okay.
“It’s a godsend as without this we wouldn’t have survived the last two and a half years.
“In November, when I turn 55, I get 25 per cent of my pension so I’ve already told The Salvation Army I’m going to donate £500 to the foodbank because without this, we wouldn't be where we are today.”