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'People have found connection and meaning': Bishop of Durham on how 500,000 people helped by Warm Spaces campaign

by Kelly Valencia

The Bishop of Durham, Rt Rev Paul Butler, has praised the Warm Spaces campaign as new figures reveal over half a million people attended "warm rooms" across Britain.

Launched to alleviate the burden of escalating energy bills and the costs of food and living, the network of over 4,200 warm spaces across the country saw thousands attending every week during the winter.

"The collective impact has been enormous," Bishop Paul wrote. "With Spaces welcoming up to 100,000 people each week, Warm Welcome has been inundated with stories of people finding not just places of warmth but of connection and meaning. Feelings of isolation and loneliness for visitors collapsed by 85 per cent after using our spaces."

The survey, published by the Warm Welcome campaign, found that while many visitors wanted a safe space to keep warm, they were also seeking a sense of community and combatting loneliness. 

"The biggest difference has been in reducing social isolation," said one survey respondent. "We found those who were struggling with the cost of living crisis in financial terms didn't particularly access us - they used the nearby foodbank more. It was the escape from an empty house that people found most gratifying about our warm space."

According to the survey, approximately two-thirds of the warm rooms are scheduled to remain open for the remainder of the year.

Churches nationwide also opened their doors to people seeking a warm space. Christ Church Flackwell Heath in Oxford signed up to join the network in October and has been running a warm room since then.

Rev James Dwyer told Premier Christian News his church will keep the warm space open for as long as possible as "the need for company will still be there".

"We will absolutely continue it. Spring hasn't quite come yet. Certainly, in our part of the world, people still got the heating on at home. So there's still a need, and actually, even when the weather gets warmer, that need for company and that need to come and be with other people will still be there, and we will as long as we can continue to create that space for anyone who wants to come to it."

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