How to open your own ‘community living room’

Volunteer groups can apply for a grant of up to £10,000 to help the borough’s most vulnerable

A community living room in The Gleaners Cafe (credit: WF Council)

Charitable residents keen to support the borough’s most vulnerable can now apply for a grant of up to £10,000 to open their own “community living room”.

Waltham Forest Council launched the spaces – which opened in libraries, shops, pubs and even fitness studios – in November last year to provide a “welcome haven” for the borough’s vulnerable residents during the winter months.

The community living rooms, visited by an average of 300 people each week, offered fun activities, hot drinks and snacks and access to important advice on surviving the cost-of-living crisis.

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The network of almost 50 spaces around the borough has proved so successful that the council now wants to keep the project going for the next 12 months.

Vicky Ashworth, the council’s cabinet member for social inclusion, said the community living rooms helped “destigmatise the act of looking for help and advice” by being “places of joy, first and foremost”.

She said: “People who in the past would never have thought to seek advice and useful support were able to find it in a social setting, making them more inclined to take up the offer. In a sense, they came for the activities, such as art workshops and film nights, and stayed for the company and useful advice.

“Although the struggle with heating bills has receded as we enter the warmer months, the harsh reality is that for many residents the cost-of-living crisis remains a fact of life.”

Find out more about how to apply for grant funding to open a community living room here.

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