Come dine with us – cafe is not just for the homeless

Rosie French and long-serving volunteer Jean Dowdney outside the cafe in West Street
Rosie French and long-serving volunteer Jean Dowdney outside the cafe in West Street

It is the coldest week of the winter, and life for those living on the streets around Bridlington became even tougher than usual.

One place of refuge for them is the Kingfisher Cafe, which serves up cheap meals and a warm welcome to the homeless.

The  Kingfisher Cafe serves home-cooked food at very low prices''Pictures by Paul Atkinson

The Kingfisher Cafe serves home-cooked food at very low prices''Pictures by Paul Atkinson

But volunteers who run the cafe say they need more members of the public to call in and enjoy the food, so they can expand their services and meet the escalating running costs.

It costs around £1,000 a month just to keep the cafe open and pay the utilities bills and rent.

“We do get an enormous amount of generosity from the town,” said chair Rosie French, but they need money as much as donations.

Tesco, Morrisons, Co-op and One Stop are among the shops which donate surplus food. However, the cafe needs more customers to call in for a cuppa and a bite to eat to get cash in the till.

Treasurer and trustee Betty Raywood helps out at breakast time at the cafe

Treasurer and trustee Betty Raywood helps out at breakast time at the cafe

As well as providing food for the homeless, the cafe in West Street gives them something else – an address they can use to enable them to claim benefits.

“We have extended our reason for being here,” said Rosie. “We serve the community, not just the homeless, but families who are disadvantaged.

“We have widened our remit. But as we do that, our costs increase, and we really do want to become more than just a cafe.”

Its location on the south side, just a couple of hundred yards from the Spa and the seafront, is a blessing and a curse.

Gill Carlton-King is responsible for running the kitchen

Gill Carlton-King is responsible for running the kitchen

Rosie explained: “The location gives the guys a certain amount of privacy, but we need more members of the public to come in and eat with us. We don’t get the footfall.

“We would really like to see the public more.

“We make fantastic food and it’s not expensive. This is not just a cafe for the homeless, but by buying food here, you are helping the homeless.”

The cafe is also proud that it gives training opportunities to people from all sorts of backgrounds. The latest recruits to the kitchen speak very little English.

The cafe in West Street

The cafe in West Street

“We have four Syrian refugees who have been rehomed in Bridlington and they are working in our kitchen as volunteers,” added Rosie.

“They had never even heard of Yorkshire puddings when they first came here but they have integrated really well.

“We are so pleased to have them helping us and they are brilliant cooks.”

The Kingfisher project began in 1982, operating from a building near to the current bus station.

Of the current team, Jean Dowdney, is the longest-serving volunteer. She said: “When it was pulled down, the volunteers started working out of churches, like St Peter’s, Christ Church, Emmanuel and the Salvation Army, who let us use their kitchens.

“Eventually, we outgrew their hospitality.”

Plenty of choice on the menu

Plenty of choice on the menu

The cafe opened in 2011, which is when Rosie got involved.

She said: “I saw an advert in the Free Press which said the Kingfisher Trust was opening a cafe ad they needed pots and pans and all kinds of things.

“They also needed paintings to go on the walls to make it look nicer and I thought ‘I can do that’.

She has been involved since then, and created a new range of paintings last year to freshen up the walls.

“I love it, I feel so privileged to be able to work with these people and it is just a great place to be,” Rosie added.

Susan and Wayne Ingram enjoy a cuppa and a chat

Susan and Wayne Ingram enjoy a cuppa and a chat