An IT developer has created a website where people can find their nearest warm bank and avoid freezing amid the “desperate” cost of living crisis.
Warm couches are places with heating that people can go to to keep warm when they are struggling to heat their home.
Jason Baldry, 35, from Norwich, said he set up the website over the summer after becoming concerned that such a resource was not yet available.
He created WarmSpaces.org in his spare time – a website where anyone who runs a warm bank in the UK can register to have their facility added to the card.
“Headlines came out about the crisis in the cost of living and energy prices. We could see something on the horizon,’ Mr Baldry said.
“People started signing up pretty slowly and then it spread. We now have over 1,000 listings on the map and they are still coming in thick and fast.”
He said he was surprised and unprepared at how popular the website has become, especially after temperatures plummeted in the UK last week.
“As soon as that temperature dropped, we saw a big spike in traffic,” Mr Baldry said.
‘I get quite a few emails from people saying ‘help!’. I wasn’t quite ready for that yet.
“They’re really screaming for help by saying, ‘I’m on benefits. I can’t afford to heat my house. What should I do?”
“I kind of have to turn around and say this is signage, I’m sorry. These are a lot of different organizations that will hopefully come together to create this conglomeration of pins on a map.
“And there are other organizations that specifically help people who run hot spaces.
“The takeaway is I’m only getting the tiniest tip of an iceberg of communication from those who just don’t know where to go and it’s hard for me to even suggest what to do – it’s a desperate time right now .’
Mr. Baldry maintains the website with some friends and says he spends most nights adding new warm banks to the map.
“It takes about a minute to fill out the form, maybe not even,” he said.
“So if they’re running a hot space, they can put the details in there, or the name of it, the time of the week it’s running, the time of day and what kind of features are available with the hot space.” room.
“Many people offer free food or drinks, other places offer charging devices. Some places are now starting to talk about shower facilities and laundry facilities, which is cool.
“But I also tried to get companies to sign up where they’re open and it’s already warm… there might not be a free offer per se, but there might be some sort of permission for people to just stay for a while.
“A lot of places come up with a lot of interesting ideas. We have quite a few pubs there that offer sort of pay-it-forward schemes.
“That’s definitely something the coffee shop here in St. Thomas does, too. So people can buy a token for a cup of coffee and someone can come in and exchange it.’
Mr Baldry was keen to point out that he does not want to normalize hot banks.
“This website shouldn’t exist,” he said. “We are the fifth largest economy in the world. Frankly, it is an indictment of the government.
“But I wanted to do something in response, to channel some of that dissatisfaction with the situation into something productive.
“I think there is a danger that we will go for a few winters and energy prices will stay as they are and that this is normal.
“This can’t be normal. This cannot be what we accept.’
But Mr Baldry is also trying to put a positive spin on the card, using it to address other crises facing the country.
“I also felt the conviction that the map is also an answer to the climate crisis,” said Baldry.
‘People share heat in rooms that are already warm. I think there’s a good conversation to have about that and the kind of community element we can bring to it.
“But sometimes it also feels like we’re making a map in response to loneliness, in response to what people need for their mental health, to get together with people.
“Maybe after all this is done, it will eventually be something like this.”
Contact our news team by emailing email@example.com.
For more stories like this, check our news page.