The NE First Credit Union has begun to operate weekly drop-in sessions offering support and advice at Foundations, on Church Street, in Shildon.
The service, which was created by merging the former Durham, Cestria and Gateshead credit unions, runs sessions between noon and 1pm every Thursday.
Sid Rooke, of NE First Credit Union, said: “We know money is a cause for concern.
“Many people find themselves in difficult situations often turning to expensive payday loan companies or worse loan sharks.
“The credit union offers a safe and affordable solution and we hope that by being based in Foundations more people will be able to access our services.”
The Foundations building is owned and managed by social housing provider livin in partnership with Sunderland Football Club’s charity the Foundation of Light.
The credit union is the first company to lease space in the building.
Philip Pollard, head of financial wellbeing for livin, said: “This is a big step in helping us tackle poverty and the practice of payday lenders and illegal money lending locally.”
The credit union is looking to recruit volunteers to deliver weekly one-hour drop in sessions. Full training will be provided to applicants.
Details on the credit union and volunteering can be obtained from nefirstcu.org.uk