Warm banks have appeared across the UK in recent months to provide Brits with a place to keep warm if they cannot afford rising energy bills - which have hit a £2,500 yearly average, and are set to go up again in April to £3,000.
Jason Baldry, head of creative and IT for St Thomas’ Church in Norwich, said he set up the WarmSpaces.org website after discovering one was not already available online.
The IT guru's website now has over 1,000 listings, and he said new locations on the map "are coming in thick and fast".
“As soon as that temperature dropped we saw a big spike in traffic,” the 35-year-old told PA. “I’m getting quite a lot of emails from people sort of saying ‘help!’. I was not quite ready for that.
“They’re genuinely just crying out for help saying, ‘I’m on benefits. I can’t afford to heat my house. What do I do?’"
Baldry said it is not complicated for warm banks to register for his website, and said he and his friends spend most nights adding locations to the map.
“It takes about a minute to fill in the form, maybe not even that,” he said.
“So if they’re running a warm space, they can put the details in there, or the name of it, the time of the week that it runs, time of the day, and then what sort of features are available at the warm space.
“Lots of people offering free food or drink, other places offer device charging. Some places are now starting to talk about showering facilities and laundry facilities, which is cool."
However, Baldry said he was keen to point out that he did not want to normalise warm banks - arguing that the "shouldn't have to exist" when the UK is "the world's fifth largest economy".
He described the situation as "an indictment of the government".
“I think there’s a danger that we go a few winters and energy prices stay as they are and it’s like this is normal," said Baldry. "This cannot be normal. This cannot be what we accept.”
His remarks come days after anti-poverty think tank the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) warned over 3 million low income families cannot afford to heat their homes this winter.
“The government must see that families won’t be able to get through the winter, on the current levels of support," said senior JRF economist, Rachelle Earwaker.
"For hundreds of thousands of households it’s not a choice between putting the heating on or not.
"Our research shows they can’t afford anything recommended to protect themselves from the effects of plummeting temperatures."
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