Places of Welcome are set to spread across Staffordshire and Stoke. The Places of Welcome movement is a growing network of hospitality run by local community groups who want to make sure that everyone in their area has a place to go for a friendly face, a cup of tea and a conversation if and when they need it. The primary aim of the Places of Welcome network is that every neighbourhood has places where all people feel safe to belong, connect and contribute. We want to extend this network across Staffordshire and Stoke.
Places of Welcome bring people together, overcome loneliness, and build a sense of community. They are local venues where, on a regular basis, people can find company, and be valued for who they are. The guiding principles of all Places of Welcome are expressed in 5 Ps. These are:
- Place: An accessible and hospitable building, open at the same time every week.
- People: Open to everyone regardless of their circumstances or situation, and staffed by volunteers.
- Presence: A place where people actively listen to one another.
- Provision: Offering free refreshments (at least a cup of tea and a biscuit) and basic local information.
- Participation: Recognises that every person coming to a Place of Welcome will bring talents, experiences and skills that they might be willing to share locally.
Places of Welcome developed out of the Birmingham Social Inclusion process ‘Giving Hope Changing Lives’, as a response to the question - Is Birmingham a welcoming city? It quickly spread to the Black Country, more recently into the south of Staffordshire and in several other locations around England. There are now over 150 Places of Welcome, with 4 in Lichfield District, 3 in Tamworth and 2 in South Staffordshire. In September 2016, Sue Ball was recruited as part-time coordinator, promoting Places of Welcome in Birmingham and the Black Country. We want to employ a part-time coordinator for Staffordshire and Stoke.
From the beginning, Places of Welcome have been sponsored by joint ventures between the Church Urban Fund and two local dioceses, of which we, Transforming Communities Together, are one. The Church Urban Fund is now seeking to promote Places of Welcome nationally, whilst Transforming Communities Together is seeking to extend Places of Welcome across Staffordshire.
Transforming Communities Together is a registered charity, working with communities through local churches across the Diocese of Lichfield, addressing concerns such as debt, dementia, and social integration. The Diocese of Lichfield includes Staffordshire. Many, though not all, Places of Welcome are based at churches which, in several neighbourhoods, can provide an initial point of engagement with local communities.
Places of Welcome are run by volunteers, using the community resources which churches and other local groups can freely provide. Our coordinator will promote the network across Staffordshire and Stoke, encouraging new Places of Welcome to open, and existing projects to join the network and benefit from the additional publicity.
The primary expenditure is the coordinator’s salary with on-costs (£15,590), with travel and other expenses (£1,500), funding costs (£1,225), and recruitment and management (£1,540). The project has already received a grant of £3,500 from the Common Good fund, £3,000 from S3 Partnership (SCVYS, Support Staffordshire, & South Staffordshire CVA) and £1,540 in kind from Transforming Communities Together, leaving a Crowdfunding target of £11,950.
All those supporting Places of Welcome will receive the reward for themselves and their family and friends at every Place of Welcome, every week, and the joy of knowing that this hospitality is being extended to people all over Staffordshire. Amongst the rewards available, a local artist is producing a limited edition print, and a local ceramic manufacturer a souvenir mug. The cathedral and six historic churches are offering guided tours to supporters.
A recent independent evaluation concluded “that Places of Welcome are providing safe spaces in local communities in which people from a variety of backgrounds – including those who are otherwise socially isolated – are building friendships and finding ways of participating or contributing, both within and beyond the groups themselves. … there is strong evidence to suggest that the Network is providing opportunities for people to meet and get to know others from their local neighbourhood they may not otherwise have met. … for many [participants], the Place of Welcome was helping them to feel less isolated and more connected to others in their community. There was evidence of participants becoming more actively engaged, either in helping at the Place of Welcome itself, or in other activities in the local community: for some, this certainly marked a growth in confidence too. Importantly, Places of Welcome has generated – or tapped into – considerable energy and enthusiasm amongst those who have become involved. Coordinators and others involved in making Places of Welcome happen showed a strong level of commitment to the Places of Welcome ethos and to the goal of providing spaces in which all people can feel safe to belong, connect and contribute.”
As well as contributing financially, supporters can encourage people to visit or volunteer at existing Places of Welcome, alert us to potential new venues, or become involved in starting a new Place of Welcome.