Café that helps the vulnerable forced to close

Linda Cross, a volunteer at Kiln Cafe for seven years
Linda Cross, a volunteer at Kiln Cafe for seven years
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A café that helps vulnerable people gain experience faces closure due to lack of funding.

The Kiln Café, beside the carpark behind Wilkinson’s in Bury St Edmunds, will close on March 31 because the Genesis Housing Association which owns it can no longer fund it.

Linda Cross, who has volunteered for seven years since she retired, said: “They help people who are vulnerable adults, people with learning difficulties and disabilities. They come in and help in the kitchen or some help with the waiting and serving people.

“It gives them something outside their norm — teaches them life skills. We’ve had volunteers come in who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, and they’ve become outgoing.”

David Beaton, from Thetford, said his partner’s son, who has learning difficulties, now has a job thanks to the café boosting his confidence and language skills.

“If you take this away, where are they going to go?” he said.

Former volunteer Mark Sanders, a recovering alcoholic, said: “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be in the job I’m in now. I feel they’re discriminating against the homeless and people with mental and physical disabilities.”

Susan Hollins, West Suffolk College’s head of foundation studies, said: “The Kiln Café has been tremendously helpful in offering work experience to students.

“This will be a great loss to the local community.”

A spokeswoman for Genesis said it had provided ‘significant’ funding to subsidise the café over the years because it recognised its importance to volunteers and the community, but it had continued to run at a loss.

She added: “We have tried, unsuccessfully, to raise money to support the café from various different grant making bodies, through potential partnerships and other sources over the last few years.

“More recently, we have investigated funding with over thirty different organisations. We are still looking into alternative sources of funding, even at this stage.“