'You get a bit of company and food': Peterborough residents making friends at community warm hub

The hub at St Mark’s Church benefits from Peterborough City Council funding
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Making friends, getting a hot meal, help with eating more healthily – these were all reasons people came to St Mark’s Church community hub in Peterborough this week.

The hub, like 17 others in the city, currently benefits from Peterborough City Council (PCC) funding and attracts people of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances.

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With the recent cost of living increases, warmth is one of the best-publicised benefits of these hubs and the heating was certainly on at St Mark’s.

Joan helps to take the orders.Joan helps to take the orders.
Joan helps to take the orders.

But there are lots of other benefits too.

For some, the promise of a hot meal – which some hubs provide – is welcome, as well as the offer of further support.

Benny Williams, who is homeless, receives help with finding housing from The Garden House charity, which told him about the hub at St Mark’s.

There, he finds food, support and companionship.

John McCatty (left) and Roger Kaye (right)John McCatty (left) and Roger Kaye (right)
John McCatty (left) and Roger Kaye (right)

“It’s basically like a big family and a big community together,” he said.

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“It’s really welcoming and it does help people in my situation.

“You get a bit of company and food and they direct you in the right way.”

Trevor Fuller, from Fletton, also appreciates the financial benefit.

Trevor FullerTrevor Fuller
Trevor Fuller

“I’m on Universal Credit, so by the time you spend that you haven’t got a lot left,” he said.

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“That’s why I come here, you get a meal, and I also live on my own so if I don’t get out and about I just sit in front of the television all day.”

“I go to one every day, virtually, and I also get exercise because I walk to all of them.”

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For Shirley Nutt, from Dogsthorpe, enjoys a meal at the centre with Martin.For Shirley Nutt, from Dogsthorpe, enjoys a meal at the centre with Martin.
For Shirley Nutt, from Dogsthorpe, enjoys a meal at the centre with Martin.

For others, the benefit is completely different.

For Shirley Nutt, from Dogsthorpe, the meals themselves – from chilli to baked potatos to sausage and mash - keep bringing her back.

The 88-year-old explained: “Two years ago, I weighed 15 stone six and I’m now nine stone four and I haven’t dieted.

“I wasn’t eating properly.

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“I live on my own and just couldn’t be bothered, to be honest.

“When I’m with people, I eat better.”

‘Made nice friends’

Shirley added that she puts the cost of her meal in the donations box – she’s less concerned about the financial support the hubs offer than the good food and community aspect.

“I’ve made some nice friends,” she said.

Among them is the church’s reverend, Martin Joss.

He’s “around to talk to people”, he said, and is pleased to see the benefits the community hub has brought.

“It’s a really good way to support the community in engaging with each other,” he said.

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“This parish is the most diverse parish in the whole Peterborough diocese and one of the most financially struggling.”

“When there’s help, this is always the area they come to,” Shirley agreed.

As well as funds, PCC supports the hubs with ‘community connectors’ - people like John McCatty who visit them, signposting residents to other support services they could benefit from.

He explained that the hubs are funded until March, but he would like to see this continue if possible.

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“We would love these hubs to continue after March,” he said.

‘Need not going away’

“Some of them, such as this, had community cafes before we gave the funding in October, so I’m sure they’ll carry on anyway - but it’s obvious that the need you see yourself today is not going to go away.

“We’d love all of the winter support hubs to continue and if Peterborough City Council can help in any way, we'd love to.

“But it’s like anything, funding is difficult to come across and Peterborough City Council is struggling at the moment.”

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The volunteers at the hub feel similarly – although PCC’s help is welcome, they still want to find more sources of support and recruit more volunteers to ensure the community hub will live on, whether or not more council funding is offered.

Among the volunteers at St Mark’s are Roger Kaye, Joan Hepper and Caroline Hutchings, who helped take orders and deliver the food.

Meanwhile, community development consultant Femi Olasoko prepared the baked potatos on offer in the kitchen.

The hub is open on Wednesdays for breakfast and lunch (10am to 2pm) and Thursdays (2pm to 4pm) for lunch.

You can find more hubs here.