Record numbers turn to 'warm banks' in York as temperatures plummet
As temperatures plummet 'warm banks' have been set up across York to help people who cannot afford to heat their homes - and they are seeing record numbers through their doors.
The soaring cost of fuel and basic essentials amid the cost of living crisis has led to the rise of 'warm banks' across the UK, in locations such as community centres, churches, and libraries, which people can visit if they are struggling to keep warm at home.
One of the 20 warm banks set up across York is St Sampson's Centre, in Church Street, which is a cafe and social hub for the over 60s.
Now, as temperatures are set to fall to as low as -5C next week, the centre wants to get the message out that it is a warm hub for all.
The centre first learned about warm hubs after seeing a news programme about an initiative in Germany.
Richard Whittaker, a team member at St Sampson's Centre, said: "We got on the ball with it straight away, our ethos is to serve others of all backgrounds, and so this was just the right thing to do.
"The cafe offers lower prices than normal but there is no obligation to buy anything here, we are open for all ages and for any reason to be here.
"We are a place of refuge. People are having to make the choice between heating and eating, so people can just come here to cut down on their bills so they don't have to struggle to keep warm all day.
"The last couple of weeks have been the busiest we've ever been and we've been taking in record numbers."
The centre has also teamed up with Age UK to provide brand new or barely worn warm clothing, such as coats, jumpers, and cardigans, and blankets donated by Escrick Church, free of charge. The items are available at the centre from December 13 to 16, and December 19, from 10am to 12pm - and until 4pm on December 14.
Speaking about the initiative, Margaret Burrow who attends the centre, said: "I think having a warm place is really important. I come here regularly and I enjoy coming here to see friends."
The charity Warm Welcome said nearly 2,700 warm banks are open across the country, the number having risen rapidly from just 350 in October.
As of December 1, this includes 282 in Yorkshire and The Humber, although figures could now be higher as more spaces are registering as warm banks every day.
Other services at St Sampsons Centre include mental health advice by the Samaritans, financial advice, Older Citizens' Advocacy, English language lessons, and computer classes.
The centre is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm, to see the full list of warm banks across York, click here.