Countryside Partnership supports the Waltham Forest Winter Spaces Network

17 March 2023

Waltham Forest Council has been delivering the Winter Spaces Network since late 2022. The Winter Spaces Network is a collection of warm, welcoming, and inclusive community venues that have been open to residents throughout the coldest months of the year. Spaces have opened across the borough in a variety of community venues such as community cafes, faith settings, and entertainment venues.

Although principally funded by the Council, the Winter Spaces Network has also received generous financial donations from partners along the way. One of these partners is Countryside, the council’s development partner for the Fellowship Square and Marlowe Road. Countryside’s donation to supporting the Council’s response to the cost-of-living emergency has enabled the launch of six community venues across the borough: four Community Living Rooms and two Community Kitchens. All spaces are now open to members of the community and supply wellbeing activities and practical support on managing the cost of living, as well as a warm and welcoming space for those in need.

Thanks to the Winter Spaces funding we have been able to create a café and drop-in centre that is comfortable, warm and allows us to supply activities and health food to residents. We are grateful for the support given to do that.

Julie from Walthamstow’s Salvation Army branch, a local Community Living Room.

The four Community Living Rooms, open for a combined 30 hours per week from December to March, provide a space to get out of the cold for at least 150 local people each week – all venues are suitable for children and adults alike and provide a space of sanctuary to get out of the cold and enjoy a warm drink, whilst being able to access vital services to support with the cost-of-living in a non-judgemental setting.

The partnership has also aided the launch of two Community Kitchens in the borough serving hot, nutritious snacks and free or heavily subsidised meals to a joint minimum of seventy-five residents each week. The Kitchens are providing food and cost of living support as well as an opportunity for residents at risk of isolation to feel welcome in a safe space where they can meet others and build relationships with those who may be facing similar challenges.

Cabinet Member for Jobs, Social Inclusion, and Equalities Cllr Vicky Ashworth states: “The Winter Spaces Network has been a crucial support system for residents through the cost-of-living crisis. We now have 49 Winter Spaces in total, who together have hosted over 10,000 hours of service through the winter period. We are so grateful to our partners like Countryside who helped make this possible for our communities.”

Waltham Forest Council has also welcomed their local libraries to the network, offering residents desk space and computers for use, as well as daily free events for adults and children. Lea Bridge Library has comfortable sofas to relax and has been offering free tea and coffee for residents since October.