Disabled grandmother’s favourite place is ‘warm’ library

A 65-year-old disabled woman who can barely afford to heat her home for more than 90 minutes every day says the warmth and community spirit that Chelmsford library offers makes it her “favourite place”.

It is one of several warm banks open across Chelmsford for people like the electric wheelchair-bound grandmother who said she is struggling to pay bills.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said her energy bills have increased by as much as £50 per month – a sum she cannot properly afford from her payments.

She said she is watching her food bills, and most poignantly because her home is not heated properly she has constant pain in her fingers.

She said: “My heating is off basically. But when my family come over because I’ve got grandchildren I have to have the heating on then and that uses up the a lot of the money I set aside for energy. But the rest of the time I have to wrap up in layers.”

Apart from libraries, other organisations are also offering a warm space to help residents this winter. They include churches, mother and child groups and even a number of shops and businesses.

She added: “I come in regularly to sit at a desk, to read and study, that sort of thing, but most of all I come here to keep warm. The library is my favourite place basically.”

There are a range of possibilities for warm area in neighbourhoods around the city.

During the winter months Chelmsford Museum, in Moulsham Street, is open from 10am to 4pm every day.

Essex libraries are inviting people to come and sit inside, and some have hot drinks on hand. The Warm Welcomes initiative will offer extra opportunities for residents to visit them in order to keep warm, get advice and information and stay connected with others this winter.

Among the other locations is the Salvation Army, in Baddow Road, which is open 10am to 5pm Mondays and Thursdays for a free hot meal and a warm and open space. Another is The Orchards Café in Great Baddow which is open Monday to Friday for free tea, coffee, soup, beans on toast.

Every Thursday Moulsham Lodge Methodist Church has a warm-up day where people can pop along and have a warm-up and a chat.

Lucy Driver, who runs the fortnightly community tea at Chelmsford Library, says she has seen an increase in the number of people since the cost of living has started to affect people.

She said: “It’s nice because people are forming friendships and talking. It’s nice to see people who come in and who are on their own and who are now chatting to each other. In this day and age there are not enough things available for people to form friendships.

“It’s really important especially the struggles everyone has at the moment.

“Its not only worrying it makes people feel quite isolated to be able to talk who are probably in the same boat help them.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter