A community centre nestled inside a Little Horton church has shed light on the challenges facing Bradford’s hardest-hit residents amid the cost-of-living crisis.

The West End Community Centre has been a saving grace for hundreds of people since opening at St. Oswald's in 2005.

But as bills rise and the recession looms, centre manager Christine Mann has told how the centre found a new purpose as a Warm Space.

In a message to anyone in need of support, Christine said: “The door’s open, the kettle’s on. Everybody’s welcome.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradfordians gathered for a festive wreath-making event at The West End Community CentreBradfordians gathered for a festive wreath-making event at The West End Community Centre (Image: Newsquest, Mike Simmonds)

“People are very worried about the cost of living. They’re worried about bills and how food is going up. People are used to food prices going up 2p, but they’re going up sometimes by 50 per cent. People are having to change the way they shop.

“They’re worried about putting the heating on. I don’t think it’s even hit yet, we’re going to see it really start hit from the New Year.

“We’re getting an increase in people coming in for Warm Spaces, people that are now beginning to find us.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: One wreath-maker hard at work at The West End Community CentreOne wreath-maker hard at work at The West End Community Centre (Image: Newsquest)

Social isolation has been with us for a long, long time and the problem is proper social isolation is hidden. The people who are actually isolated are the hardest ones to reach out to. Covid has made it worse. People have got used to being in their own homes. People are finding it difficult to go back. There’s been a sea change in society. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to what was normal. It’s trying to reach the people that are still at home.

“People can’t afford to access the digital world. Then there’s a big barrier in older age groups in the community, some of these people don’t want to gain these skills for various reasons. It’s about talking and listening to people.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A bright, festive Christmas wreath made by one creative maker at The West End Community CentreA bright, festive Christmas wreath made by one creative maker at The West End Community Centre (Image: Newsquest)

Speaking about access to healthy meals and rising levels of food poverty, she added: “If you’ve got a family to feed you want them to get fed – you’re not bothered whether it’s healthy or not.”

But West End Community Centre has become a lifeboat for many Bradfordians dealing with challenging times. 

The centre has a pop-up pantry market where people can pay £5 for a goodie bag of fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and other essentials.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A successful wreath made by creative makers at The West End Community CentreA successful wreath made by creative makers at The West End Community Centre (Image: Newsquest)

A centre also donates £1 from every pop-up pantry purchase to anyone who opens a savings account with Bradford District Credit Union.

The centre’s free IT hub offers access to personalised training courses on basic skills such as sending emails while people can use it to apply for jobs or benefits.

Activities include anything from festive-themed events like wreath making to cooking classes.

Anyone who wants to socialise or simply read a book in a comfy chair can settle down for the day at the centre’s warm space.

A fun-filled day of festivities will take place on Christmas Day with a three-course meal, carols and games such as pass the parcel and pin the tail on the donkey.

Support is available for anyone who lives and works in the Bradford district.

“We are funded by The National Lottery,” Christine said.

“People can just walk in any time, stay warm and make friends.

“We know people are still very anxious with Covid. We’re really keen on the Covid hygiene regime. We disinfect the whole centre every morning and afternoon.

“We’ve got a Christmas Market on December 8. People are welcome to come.”

The arts and craft group meets on a Tuesday between 10am and 12pm, where people can get involved in small projects running or create your own painting, craftwork or drawings. Sessions cost £1.

The Lunch Club meets from 12 noon on Wednesdays for a home cooked two-course lunch for £4.

There’s an array of gardening themed events such as Guerrilla Gardening between 10am and 12pm on Wednesday, where people work on an urban garden.

Grow for Health and Wealth takes place every Monday between 10am and 2pm for a gardening session at Sunnybank allotments.

The Internet Café, held between 12pm and 1.30pm on Mondays, is a chance to enjoy a low cost lunch and new company.

Alternatively the centre runs the More for Less Cooking Group between 10am and 1pm on Fridays as well as the ‘Job search,basic IT skills and internet access’ group between 9am and 12.30pm.

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