AROUND FIVE hundred protesters held a demonstration outside Altea Town Hall on Friday morning in an effort to draw attention to the growing crisis affecting the residents and employees of the EMAUS residential homes.
The seven homes run by the EMAUS charitable foundation are facing closure within two weeks owing to a stalemate between the Department of Social Security and a Catalunyan company wishing to takeover the running of the charity.
EMAUS was formed in 1979 by Francisco Nadal who returned to Altea from France with a group of homeless teenagers and renovated his family’s old Finca for them to live in.
From a small workshop, helping problematic teenage children, it has grown into a large Registered Charitable Organisation with facilities caring for abandoned babies, children and vulnerable teenagers.
In addition they also run a safe house for women and children escaping abusive relationships and homes for elderly and people with disabilities.
In recent years the charity ran into severe financial difficulties running up debts that they were unable to pay back.
The debt situation worsened until the only option was to declare themselves bankrupt owing around 5 million euros in Social Security payments.
This leaves both residents and staff at the homes facing an impossible situation, through lack of funding from charitable donations.
Employees of the charity have not received wages for the last seven months and more importantly their social security payments have not been met.
Should they lose their jobs they will not qualify for payment from the government and will be left penniless.
The residents also face an uncertain future as the majority of them are living at the homes because they have nowhere else to go and are already vulnerable.
However, there is a solution to the problem facing the charity and that is the reason the rally was called on Friday.
A new non-profit making company from Catalunya is proposing to take over the running of the homes.
They have a successful track record within the sector and would safeguard the jobs of staff and future for the vulnerable residents.
The potential new owners are unfortunately left with the social security debt and are unwilling to pay it and despite negotiations with the social security department they are unable to get the 5 million euro debt waived.
There is a precedent here, as there are many examples of football clubs and other businesses having social security debts waived when new owners take over, but on this occasion the government department will not budge.
Speakers at Friday’s rally, including representatives from the homes and the CCCO trade union, pointed this out as they made speeches calling for a solution to the crisis.
Local charity director Wayne Bellamy-Wright, whose Busy Bees charity raises huge amounts for the children and women residents, speaking to RTN, pointed out that: ‘The government have a legal responsibility to these people’’, who find themselves in this situation through no fault of their own, adding ‘They are there now because they are already vulnerable, they cannot just throw them out on the streets’’.
More rallies are planned for next week and the organisers are calling for more and more supporters to show up to draw attention to their intolerable situation.