As freezing temperatures continue and the cost of living rises, people are turning to “warm banks” for respite.
But they have become so important to some that the fear that they may be closed over Christmas makes users anxious and worried.
Heat banks are popping up around the country, with the aim of helping those struggling to heat their homes in the colder months.
Established by councils, community groups and charities, they offer people a warm welcoming place, and often food and refreshments too.
Carol Morrison regularly goes to a local hot bank set up in a library in south-east London. She said it has been a “lifeline” during the cold snap.
“When I’m here, it’s like everything disappears, I don’t have to worry about anything,” she told Sky News.
But on most days the hot bank must close by 5pm, and Carol has “nowhere else to go”.
It comes at a time when energy prices have risen, leaving many people struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills.
Carol is unable to heat her home, and goes straight to bed most nights.
“What else? I don’t want to sit in the front room, it’s cold, I’ll just lie in bed.”
In London, all councils have said they want to provide a warm banking system.
But inevitably, many who rely on them will face a difficult Christmas and New Year as many hot banks will be closed over the festive period.
Cold weather takes a physical and mental toll
Carol doesn’t know how she’ll get through the holidays – her local heat bank won’t reopen until the New Year.
The cold weather combined with rising costs of living has taken a huge toll on her well-being – and exacerbated her arthritis.
“My joints seize up and when my joints tighten I can barely walk,” she said.
“When it’s cold, my back ends up in a lot of pain. The pain is the worst. It’s unbearable.”
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She said it has also had a big impact on her mental health.
“It’s depressing. I find myself very isolated, I don’t want to talk to people, I don’t care, I just feel low.
“I never thought that if you retire, this is how it is. I never thought it would have gotten this bad.”
As we head into the holiday season, it’s going to be a season filled with dread for Carol.
All she wants is to be able to stay warm.