The Bishop of Lichfield praised the impact of dozens of volunteers who have invested thousands of hours in the growing network of Places of Welcome across the district.
Places of Welcome have sprung up at a rapid rate across Lichfield, Burntwood and surrounding areas in Lichfield District with 16 now open. They provide an unconditional welcome to local people for at least a few hours each week in venues including churches, libraries, community halls, a Buddhist temple and, most recently, a nursing home.
More than 2,000 attendances at Places of Welcome were recorded in the district between January and March 2019 alone, along with over 1,000 volunteer hours.
The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, welcomed Places of Welcome volunteers to a special celebration at his house. He said Lichfield District was at the cutting edge of the Places of Welcome movement which has over 350 venues across the country including over 100 in Lichfield Diocese.
This is such a significant time for our society, Bishop Michael said. We live in a time where people can easily feel threatened, isolated and alone. But Places of Welcome mean that people feel connected and welcome. It is a real cause for the common good and very close to our heart as a Church as we seek to be people of hope.
This year, Lichfield District Council has invested 15,800 to help establish and coordinate Places of Welcome as part of its work to build resilience, improve well-being and increase volunteering.
Council Leader Doug Pullen, who was at the celebration, spoke of a homeless Iraq War veteran who had been supported to find housing, transport, clothing and food after encountering Places of Welcome in Lichfield.
Lichfield District is such a fantastic place to live but for people without support networks it can be difficult, Councillor Pullen said. Places of Welcome make people feel connected to those they live around and to the place they live. Hundreds of lives each week are being affected in a positive way by people who are volunteering thanks to Places of Welcome.
Places of Welcome are sponsored and supported by Transforming Communities Together, a joint venture between the Church Urban Fund and the Diocese of Lichfield. They have five values ensure that each venue is open at the same time and place for at least a few hours every week and is welcoming to anyone wanting to attend:
- 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 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.
There are no charges for joining Places of Welcome, and anyone can start one in their community. Places of Welcome can be in any location including churches, mosques, temples, community centres or housing associations. A comprehensive list of Places of Welcome can be found here.
For advice on setting up a Place of Welcome in Staffordshire or the Black Country email email@example.com