Cost of Living Crisis: Edinburgh's warm spaces continue to provide warmth and hot food to city residents

Local groups taking part reveal how city-wide scheme is going

We’ve been catching up with two of the groups taking part in the council-led ‘heat banks’ initiative which launched last month, offering warm spaces for people struggling to heat their homes this winter during the cost of living crisis.

In December, more than 60 warm spaces were set-up in libraries, community centres, museums and galleries across Edinburgh with activities and hot drinks for those who choose to visit.

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Community Renewal, Pennywell is a local charity which provides support for local residents with a range of services including employment support, pantry and community development They launched Cosy Corner Mondays last November in response to the energy cost crisis. It runs every week from 4pm to 6pm, offering local people a warm, safe space for a couple of hours, with free bowls of freshly homemade soup and fresh rolls available. Around 10-15 people on average are using the service each week.

One of the staff members at North Edinburgh Community Resource Centre having a conversation with a client at its warm bank.

Cara Babineau, who is the Pennywell Neighbourhood Manager, said: “There has definitely been more of an uptake once word of mouth got around. So it has picked up more recently and hopefully we keep reaching people who could use the space.

"Locals of all ages come out each week. We have board games, colouring books and activities that young people and families can play with. While older participants enjoy a chat and hot soup. It’s an open, free space, where people can meet up. We plan to keep the Cosy Corner running through to the end of winter.

"High energy costs are bad for everyone, but the cosy corners are good at getting people out and about, talking to each other. Particularly for older people that come along. Some of the older people have been teaching kids games, so it’s also good for inter-generational communication.

"The underlying thing is that people shouldn’t have to pay so much for their heating that they need to seek other places. But it’s nice to see people come together in the community, and we hope the Cosy Corner is somewhere people want to be regardless of costs at home.”

North Merchiston Club is among the 60+ venues taking part in the initiative.

An interactive map showing all warm spaces in the city is available on the council’s website where more details can be found.

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Catherine Lowe is the manager of North Merchiston Club, which hosts a warm space every Wednesday from 10am- 5pm this winter, offering free hot drinks and a light lunch, as well as a small library, toys for children and free wi-fi. This was funded by the Scottish Children’s Lottery and the Big Hearts Community Trust.

She said: “We trialled it for a week or two before Christmas but started properly in January. It’s not been as busy as we thought it would be, with about seven people on average attending, mostly older people. We tried to really advertise it, but it would be nice to see more people come along.

"I know some people feel embarrassed about coming, but there is no need for that. Nobody should be embarrassed, as any one of us can get into dire straights. Particularly at the moment as it is so difficult for everybody. We are here to help people. The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. I hope it gets more popular. It’s here for everybody.

The North Edinburgh Community Resource Centre is also hosting one of the 'warm banks'.
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"All the local churches here provide a warm space afternoon or day so we took a day none of them were doing. So there is an option for local people to go every day. We also have funding available for things like emergency food or if a child needs a new coat or a decent pair of shoes. Anything that can help people keep warm.”

Other venues and groups taking part in the warm spaces initiative this winter across the city include North Edinburgh Arts at West Pilton Grove, Granton Parish Church, Magdalene Community Centre, Gilmerton Community Centre and Craigmillar Now.