July 23 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Staff and users of the popular All Saints’ Centre in Norwich city centre said they were “gutted” after it closed yesterday.
The day centre, based in a converted church in Westlegate opposite John Lewis, provided a cafe and place to rest and socialise every day for dozens of people including many homeless and vulnerable adults.
But, despite rising demand for its services, it has closed after 35 years with the loss of five jobs.
Its trustees blamed rising expenses, including rent, heat and light, a fall in people spending money in the centre, and difficulties securing grant funding. They also said the Norwich Historic Churches’ Trust, from whom they rent the building, had been unable to agree a more affordable rent.
Manager Karen Maidstone, who has worked at the centre for nine years, said: “We have had people coming forward with some money to help, but it’s not enough to keep us going. I feel very sad that we are closing.”
One of the customers, Sheila Amies, from Norwich, said: “I’m nearly 90 and I worked here at the coffee bar as a volunteer more than 20 years ago. I come in as a customer now. It’s such a super place, and there’s something here for everybody. I feel absolutely gutted about it closing. It’s a place where you can meet people, and there’s nowhere like it.”
Another user, Carol Moss, from Diss, said: “This centre has kept me alive. I’m absolutely devastated.”
Jon Moore, from Sprowston Road, Norwich, said he did not know where he would go from now on. He said: “I feel really sorry for the staff and volunteers. It’s really peaceful here and you get to know everybody. It’s like a big family. You can have a laugh and a joke and read your newspaper. I’m gutted and fed-up that it’s closing. I think some big organisations could have stepped in to save it, seeing what it means to people.”
Peter Threadkell, chairman of the trustees at the centre, said: “In this fine city of Norwich there is still deprivation - where it’s through loneliness, money or whatever.”
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James has written to staff and volunteers at the centre, expressing his sadness at the closure. In the letter, he said: “It has been a jewel in the life of Norwich, giving hospitality to anyone who enters its doors. There has been a truly open welcome and that has only been possible because of the dedicated staff and volunteers who have made it what it has been for so many years. It’s a matter of enormous regret that such a wonderful ministry in the heart of the city has had to come to an end.”
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