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All Saints Centre in Norwich is set to close

AllSaintsKaren450All Saints’ Centre, in Norwich city centre, is set to close at the end of June after 35 years of service to the local community when its trustees decided it could no longer afford to be kept open following prolonged financial difficulties. Keith Morris reports.

The centre in All Saints Church on Westlegate near the John Lewis store, is well known for providing a warm welcome and food for anyone who needed it, whether they could pay or not, and its Food Voucher Scheme.
The trustees announced the decision in a letter to the centre friends and supporters. Trustee Katherine Gray said: “We have been in real financial difficulties for some time. Our expenses have been rising year-on-year: rent, heat, light and other running costs have had to be found as well as salaries for our wonderfully committed members of staff, the need for whom has been essential. Long gone are the days when there were sufficient committed volunteers to run the Centre alone.
“Added to this, the need to find in the region of £8,000 to repair the dangerous floor and try and fund the re-decoration of the building that would cost £14,000, it is all too far beyond our means.
All Saints Church“In the last year or so the Centre has continued to see an increase in the number of underprivileged and marginalised people coming to us for assistance but, most notably in recent months, there has been a decline in the number of people spending money in the Centre and, as this is our main source of income, it has led to a steady decline in our reserves.
“Our coffee bar income has dropped dramatically and, although this has happened at times in the past, this year it has not picked up and we are currently losing £500 per week, something that is, of course, unsustainable. We have to close before all our funds dry up as we will have to pay redundancy money to our staff and pay all our current bills and meet any costs that will come our way in the process of winding down our charity.”
Katherine also outlined increasing difficulties in finding new grant funding and being unable to negotiate a more affordable rent from landlord the Norwich Historic Churches’ Trust.
An eleventh hour proposal by the centre’s Patron, the Bishop of Norwich, that the Diocese of Norwich should take on the lease of All Saints, was also turned down by the NHCT, so its last hope became a dead end.
Katherine said: “The Trustees are naturally concerned for their faithful and committed members of staff who are losing their jobs at the end of the month, and also for their volunteers who will no longer be able to continue their service to the community at All Saints One such volunteer has been involved every week for over 30 years and others have special needs and it is feared that other placements will not be available that are appropriate to their needs.
“All Saints’ has been part of the city of Norwich for 35 years, has evolved through the vision, faith, energy, unconditional love, commitment and sheer determination of a whole host of people and will leave a huge gap. For some, the closure will mean having nowhere to go that is warm, welcoming and offering somewhere to stay with no obligation; some have made this their second home for countless years and for others it will be like losing its family.”
All Saints’ Centre has for many years administered the Food Voucher Scheme, whereby people can give vouchers instead of cash to people asking for money in and around Norwich and which recipients can redeem at All Saints’ Centre for nutritious food and hot drinks. This scheme will therefore be discontinued unless someone else is prepared to administer it from another venue.
Rev Janet Wyer, Chaplain to the Centre and chair of Norwich Central Churches Together will be calling an emergency meeting of its members to discuss what can be done to offer alternative facilities for those who rely on the Centre.
The Trustees will be meeting formally on July 7 to discuss what has to be done before they say goodbye to All Saints’.

Read our previous story on this topic

Pictured above is manager Karen Maidstone inside the All Saints Centre.

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