An Inverness charity is opening its doors to give vulnerable people training to work in the food and hospitality sector.
The community cafe Ar n-Aite – which means Our Place in Gaelic – has already made its mark providing meals and a safe place for those in need.
And now, operating charity Signpost is starting an innovative scheme where vulnerable people who might struggle to get a job will be trained to cook and serve a weekly evening meal to anyone from homeless people to paying customers.
Alan Fowler, chief officer at Signpost, said: “We are predominantly about equality and inclusion and we feel there is still a high level of social prejudice, which stems from a lack of knowledge of information.
“We are all human beings and people fall into difficult circumstances for a whole host of different reasons, many of which will not directly be our own fault.
“The cafe is designed to refresh or develop skills to allow folk to be better equipped to transition at the time into full and sustainable employment.”
Signpost have described Ar n-Aite as “a café with a conscience”.
All profits generated by the charity are to be reinvested to assist those in recovery from addiction, suffering from poor emotional health or aiding those who have come through the criminal justice system.
The cafe aims to provide quality food and value for all, as well as creating a safe space for those who may require it.
Mr Fowler added: “Our desired outcome is that hopefully the food retail business will look to us and use us as a source of recruitment and to enable a gateway transition for those utilising the service into the thriving local food retail industry.
“We are planning to deliver an evening meal and social activities to those most vulnerable. We want anybody coming into the café to feel like a valued citizen.”
The charity plans to serve at least one evening meal each week from its premise on Mondays, beginning on Monday, February 11, which will allow vulnerable members of the community to gain hands-on experience of the demanding industry.
An invitation has also been distributed to encourage guest chefs and local businesses to work in partnership with Signpost, by providing themed healthy dining opportunities and lectures, designed to motivate and inspire service users.
Mr Fowler added: “Hopefully we can break barriers and prejudices.”
“From our work, we recognise that with disadvantaged and vulnerable people, a single intervention is seldom enough. We can be a really effective gateway to providing meaningful resources and to provide support rather than sending people through different doors.”
The cafe is currently open on Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays from 10am to 4pm, with openings on Saturdays and Mondays, hoped to begin in early February.