Community centres in Conwy are being opened up to people struggling with heating and food bills because of the cost of living crisis.
Soup and rolls along with cups of tea and coffee are being provided free of charge in the Warm Welcome/Croeso Cynnes centres located across the county.
Housing association Cartrefi Conwy and its subsidiary, Creating Enterprise, are managing the scheme in the community centres they run.
They are working closely with Conwy County Borough Council who are making their libraries available as well, along with other housing associations and organisations in other parts of North Wales.
The community centres taking part in Conwy are at the Park Way estate in Rhos on Sea, Y Fron in Colwyn Bay, Pentre Newydd and Kennedy Court in Old Colwyn and Chester Avenue in Kinmel Bay.
The times of the Warm Welcome sessions vary but they generally span the lunch period every weekday.
As well as helping people through the cost of living crisis, the project is also proving a hit as a way of combating loneliness.
The scheme is due to run until the end of next February.
Park Way resident Amelia Lovett, 88, said: “We are all worried about the cost of living crisis obviously and you have to think about what you’re doing all the time. I’m having to be more careful now. Heating is the main worry, trying to keep warm.
“To be honest, I’m not watching any news either because the news is frightening. Heating is the main worry.
“Opening the community centres is a wonderful idea. It gets you together.”
It was a sentiment endorsed by neighbour Mandy Kordbagh, 58, who said: “It’s very difficult to make ends me and I’m having to make choices. I’m not putting the gas heating on. You just have to wrap up. It’s quite a bit of a worry.
“I think opening the centres like Park Way is a very good idea because you also get to know each other and have a good little chat. I like it.”
Cllr Emily Owen, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing and Regulatory has been co-ordinating the response in Conwy and said “We are really pleased at the speed organisations have worked together to respond to the current situation across communities.
“We will continue to co-ordinate activity to ensure that our most vulnerable residents are supported through the winter months.”
Cartrefi Conwy Managing Director Katie Clubb said: “Councils and housing associations across North Wales and a number of charities have come together because it’s going to be a really tough winter for some people in terms of the cost of living, heating their homes and buying food when the prices are going up.
“Cartrefi Conwy is a part of the 2025 Movement involving a range of organisations across North Wales that are working to end health inequalities.
“We are pleased to be a part of the partnership work to respond and everyone is doing something a bit different.
“Cartrefi Conwy has set up the Warm Welcome/Croeso Cynnes centres and the libraries are opening up as well with spaces for children to play.
“We’re opening up our communal spaces where people can come and meet, have some soup and a roll and as much tea or coffee as they want.
“The original idea was to respond to the cost of living crisis but it’s grown into something more than that because people are also enjoying the social element which is real bonus.
“We have come through a period where, because of Covid, people have been more isolated than ever so this is a great opportunity to combat loneliness as well.
“It’s working really well because we have plugged another gap and we’re being quite flexible.
“We’re working closely with Conwy Council, who are co-ordinating the response in the county, to make sure there aren’t any gaps in the provision, so that everybody can access and make use of the centres.
“If there’s a demand for evening sessions or different days and locations we will do what we can to respond.
“This isn’t just for Cartrefi Conwy tenants. This is for the whole community because the cost of living crisis can impact anybody.
“In a sense, this is what Cartrefi Conwy is all about because a core part of our mission is to bring people together and create communities to be proud of.
“Our team have been brilliant in getting this off the ground and we will be flexible to meet the needs of each community.”
Sioned Williams, the Community and Social Impact Manager at Creating Enterprise, “The cost of living crisis is going to hit everybody in different ways and people will find it quite difficult as we go through November into December it’s really going to affect some individuals.
“We’ve already has some people saying to us they don’t want to turn their heating on as much. We know it’s an issue. It’s really important that people know there’s a warm space that they can go to.
“We also know that some people won’t be able to get to the community centres so we also have to think about how we work alongside our partners to ensure they can have offers of support as well.
“There are all kinds of benefits to this apart from saving on heating bills at home. I’d say that the social element is just as important. It’s really laid back and friendly.
“People really do get a warm welcome in every sense. It really is what it says on the tin.”
To find out more about when and where the Warm Welcome hubs are available go to https://cartreficonwy.org/get-involved/upcoming-events/warm-welcome/