People going through a tough time in Blackpool are finding consolation and a coffee at a pop-up cafe are helping them get back on their feet.
The Camerados Living Room is offering hot meals and a calm space for people after taking over the cafe at Central Library on Queen Street.
One schoolgirl donated her pocket money to a meal
Already the scheme has helped dozens of people overcome social isolation including one man who used to call the emergency services every day for a conversation, and a woman recovering from depression after losing a child.
The Living Room, which is open to everybody, has been set up by the council in partnership with the Fulfilling Lives project.
It also includes a generosity box where customers can buy extra drinks tokens that can be used to help people who need a drink but have no money to buy one.
Maff Potts, director of the Camerados project, said: “The Camerados’ Living Room has been outstripping all our expectations.
“We’ve had many great stories already of people finding it is helping them overcome isolation, depression and other troubles.
“Our volunteers come from all sorts of backgrounds which makes them expert at understanding customers with tough times.
“In the first two days we sold 20 ‘pay it forward’ meals where customers buy an extra meal for anyone who is a bit hard up that day and can’t afford a lunch.
“One schoolgirl even donated her pocket money to a meal.”
Coun Amy Cross, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for Reducing Health Inequalities, said: “We’re proud to support the Camerados project as a great way to reduce social isolation and help people meet liked-minded people to share their issues if they are having a rough time.
“It’s great that we’re able to lend such a centrally-located community building in Central Library to this project and I’m convinced that it will make a big difference to everybody who visits.
“Setting up the living room sounds like a simple thing to do, however the level of purpose and camaraderie that it gives the staff and the visitors is second to none.
“As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved and the living room provides the ideal space for people looking either to get help with a problem in their lives or just looking for somebody to talk to.”
The Camerados cafe opens between 9am and 4pm Tuesday to Saturday and will run until 18 June.
Fulfilling Lives is helping resort residents turn their lives around
Fulfilling Lives is a partnership of statutory and voluntary sector organisations and services, which have joined force to develop innovative ways of supporting individuals.
The scheme in Blackpool is one of 12 in England that have received Big Lottery Fund investment to support people with multiple needs.
Blackpool was chosen for the project because of the high number of challenges facing some residents.
According to the Fulfilling Lives’ own website, it is estimated that at any one time there is a minimum of 1,000 people living in Blackpool with multiple and complex needs.
The neighbourhoods of Talbot, Brunswick, Claremont, Bloomfield, Brunswick, and Park wards, where many service users live, all have one or more areas ranked within the top 100 most deprived areas in the country.