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Welcoming Winter Warm Room


“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35)

 

For the last three months, twelve volunteers from St Andrews have been helping to welcome visitors to a Warm Room Café at St Paul’s Church in the town centre, in a joint venture between the two churches.

 

Inspired by Jesus’ words above from the parable of the sheep and the goats, and spurred on by the continuing cost of living and energy crisis, we started to make plans in the autumn for some sort of regular provision at St Paul’s for vulnerable people during the winter months. As we planned, we were concerned that some people might struggle to heat their homes this winter and also that some of those using the winter night shelter at The Kings Arms Project might have nowhere to go during the daytime in cold weather. Building on the experiences of successful warm rooms last winter at both St Paul’s and St Andrew’s, the 2023-24 St Paul’s Warm Room café began to take shape.

 

As it was, this winter has been relatively mild and most of the visitors to the warm room were not street sleeping homeless, and yet the project has fulfilled a vital need in the town centre and has been hugely valued by the many vulnerable guests we were able to welcome. We now regularly see 8 to 10 guests at any one time, probably upwards of 15 – 20 over the course of a week, many of whom are now regulars. Visitors are greeted not just with a warm space but with a warm welcome, hot drinks, hot soup, ever popular pot noodles as well as an endless supply of biscuits – all for free thanks to generous donations.

 

As the weeks have progressed, we have got to know most of the regulars quite well, not just their names, but something of their life stories, many of them vulnerable through poverty, precarious housing and often poor mental and physical health, many suffering from loneliness and isolation. We have listened, laughed, or sat in companionable silence, sharing company, sharing conversation and sharing friendship. The warmth of welcome, human kindness, and care being just as important as physical warmth in our warm space.

 

I would like to extend a huge thank you to those volunteers from St Andrew’s who enabled this project to take place. We could not have done it without your time, energy and commitment. I for one will miss the warm room and its guests once we close at the end of this week, and I know that I am not alone – both guests and volunteers having shared with me how very much they have enjoyed and valued it.  Unfortunately it is not possible for us to open all year round, but we hope to be able to do something similar next winter, so do watch this space if you would like to volunteer.

Rev. Anthony Davis

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