Places of Welcome Places of Welcome is a network of hospitality runby local community groups. The 16th March was a special day for Church Urban Fund. We celebrated the first birthday of the fantastic ‘Places of Welcome’ schemes presence in Wolverhampton. The scheme is a growing network of hospitality run by local community groups who want to make sure that everyone in their area has a place to go for a friendly face, a cup of tea and a conversation if and when they need it. Places of Welcome responds to the challenge to make our cities and neighbourhoods more welcoming and is a network of community organisations, including faith communities, who offer an unconditional welcome to local people for at a location available at least a few hours a week. Each Place of Welcome will be slightly different from the next but each is open to everyone and will offer friendship and hospitality; regular opening at the same time each week; free refreshments; and vital local knowledge about the neighbourhood. In recognition of the amazing work that’s been taking place, a crowd was gathering that March morning in a church in Wolverhampton to celebrate, learn more about the scheme, and, of course, eat cake. I made my way up to the celebration and was struck by the way people spoke about Places of Welcome. There was a real sense of the importance of what was happening; not a self-importance but something that’s more reflective of having seen a real need for the Places of Welcome. As people shared their experiences of opening a Place of Welcome they spoke of finding people who’d been struggling with loneliness and isolation and slowly but surely were starting to make the Place of Welcome a place where they could find a sense of community. Phil and Christine run the Place of Welcome in the church we were celebrating in and they spoke of how they were happy to see people coming through the doors and starting to build relationships; some people simply wanted a cup of tea, others didn’t have easy access to showers and politely asked that they might make the most of the shower on the property. Through their welcoming attitude Phil, Christine, and all the hosts of a Place of Welcome are making a real difference and a changing lives and communities together. As I looked around the celebration party I got the sense that we were celebrating something that is really reaching the hearts of many people. What a great thing to be able to celebrate! At the moment the Places of Welcome are largely based in the West Midlands but there are plans to extend the scheme further afield to places like the Wirral, Coventry, and Tamworth. If you want to learn more about how you might open a Place of Welcome then please get in touch through: [email protected] If you’d like to learn more about where your local Place of Welcome is then take a look at the interactive map on the Places of Welcome website. And if you want to see some pictures from the celebration, you can find those here.