Churches throw open doors to offer food and warmth this winter

Churches across south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have thrown open their doors to help those struggling financially this winter. They are offering food, company and warmth to those affected by the rising cost of living.

Families struggling with energy bills and people who live on their own can pop into their local church. They can stay warm, be given something to eat and be given some practical support.

St Faith’s Church in Havant launched its warm hub last month, providing home-made bread and soup, cakes and hot drinks inside the nearby Pallant Centre, just off North Street. It opened initially on Mondays from 12noon-2pm, with volunteers available to chat, free Wifi and charging points, and some games and books available.

Among those attending was Grainne Rason, who has recently retired from working in a local school. She said: “When you retire from work, you do lose those connections that you had in the staff room and so on. It’s harder to make those connections with others, so it’s good to have this available.”

Centre manager Shelley Saunders said: “If you go into a coffee shop, it can be £3 or more for a coffee and people can’t always afford that. We have a rota for making the soup, bread and cake, and offer it all for free, with hot drinks. We even have comfortable sofas where you can settle down with a book.”

There’s also a space for people to donate surplus clean, good quality coats, hats, gloves and scarves. Those donations can then be made to anyone in the community who needs winter clothing.

St Faith’s is working alongside other churches in Havant, which are offering warm spaces on other days of the week. St Alban’s Church, West Leigh is open on Tuesdays from 10.30am-1pm, St Joseph’s RC Church in Havant is open on Thursdays at 6.30pm for a free meal. On a Friday, people can go to St Nicholas Church, Bedhampton, from 10.30am-12.30pm, while on a Saturday, Havant United Reformed Church is open from 10.30am-1pm.

Worshippers at St Matthew’s Church, Bridgemary, are aiming to keep the doors of their church open as often as possible for those struggling with rising energy bills or buying food.

Its new community café, St Matt’s on the Corner, is open from Mondays to Saturdays from 8.30am-1.30pm, offering hot drinks, cakes, breakfast and lunch. The café is also open from 1.30pm-3pm on a Tuesday for ‘Reignite’ – where visitors can knit, sew and create over a free cuppa and cake.

The church also provides free food for families who are hungry after school on Wednesdays, and runs ‘Muddy Church’ sessions on Saturday mornings, which gives children breakfast and the chance to plant and tend vegetables.

Vicar the Rev Samantha Martell said: “Because our church building is open throughout the week, it acts as a welcoming community centre for people who might never come to a Sunday service. We also have shelves of food that we give away, and a selection of clothes for anyone who needs them. Plus, if we have more volunteers, we could open for even longer.”

And Hart Plain Church is also opening its building for those affected by soaring energy bills and rising food costs. They’ve earmarked a Wednesday morning as a good time to welcome people. They have a group that meets in the church for a coffee morning anyway from 10am-12noon. There are hot drinks and activities for those who need a bit of company.

They launched their warm space in November, and are now offering some other activities such as table tennis and chess.

The deacon-in-charge, the Rev Kate Macfarlane, said: “For many people living in our communities, it’s going to be tough winter. We know that in the area served by Hart Plain Church there are many people who are worried about how they and their wider families will cope.

“If we’re heating our church building anyway – thanks to the generosity of those who worship here – then it doesn’t matter if there are 10 people in the building or 100. So we’re happy to fling open our doors to those in need. The best way for us to get through difficult times is to work together, and support those most in need. We saw how that worked during the pandemic, and I was heartened to see how people in this area pulled together”

They are working alongside Wecock Community Centre, which opened its doors as a warm space from 1.30pm-3.30pm each Wednesday, from the start of November.

St Michael’s and All Angels, Paulsgrove, is turning the church into a ‘Heat Hub’ every Monday and Friday through the winter, from 10am-4pm. It’s a free space, offering hot coffee, comfy seating, Wifi and board games in their Paulsgrove lounge. There’s also some after-school hot chocolate available.

The church is also hosting a project called ‘Fishcake Friday’, run by the community benefit group St M’s events. London-based chef Louis Coward, who previously launched a 10-week food project called Meatball Mondays during the pandemic, has created this as a follow-up project.

WIth help from the catering department of 12 Air Defence Regiment, based at Thorney Island, Louis and the team will make homemade fishcakes, box them up and give them away for free every Friday afternoon at the church until Christmas. All are welcome to pop in to collect some.

Among other churches open as warm spaces in Portsmouth are:

• St Aidan’s in Anchorage Park (weekdays, 9am-5pm);
• St Cuthbert’s. Copnor (weekdays, 9am-5pm, including a community cafe from 10am-1.30pm staffed by volunteers);
• St Margaret’s Church, Southsea (daily; community cafe open Thursday and Friday);
• St Luke’s Church, Southsea (Monday to Thursday, 9am-5pm);
• St Jude’s Church, Southsea (weekdays, 10am-12noon).

The list of welcoming spaces in the city is being co-ordinated by Hive Portsmouth, on

Christ Church, Sandown, on the Isle of Wight, is working with Sandown Town Council to provide a warm space for locals between 11am and 3pm on Mondays during the winter months. The church has opened weekly from October 31, with volunteers providing support and hot soup. Around a dozen people come each week.

The vicar, the Rev Mark Williams, said: “We recognise the rise in the cost of living, and the pressures on families and individuals, and are grateful for the support of the town council to provide a warm space for those that need it.”

Among other island churches offering warm hubs are St Mary’s, Carisbrooke, and Newport Minster. St Mary’s church hall is open from 10am-12noon on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Newport parish centre opens from 10am-12noon on Fridays. Free refreshments are available at both venues.

A national list of churches, libraries and community centres that are open as ‘warm spaces’ can be found at