BABIES, CHILDREN, vulnerable young adults and elderly people are amongst the residents of the homes run by the Emaus charity, which face closure on May 15.
Despite a week of protest rallies and demonstrations from employees, fundraisers, supporters and union officials, the fate of the hundreds of occupants hangs in the balance.
The seven homes run by the EMAUS charitable foundation are facing closure owing to a stalemate between the Department of Social Security and a Catalunyan company wishing to take over the running of the charity.
Around five hundred protesters held a demonstration outside Altea Town hall last Friday morning in an effort to draw attention to the growing crisis.
A subsequent demonstration last Tuesday did not attract as many supporters, but was attended by the officials from several of the town’s where the homes are located, including the mayor’s of Polop, Altea, Rellue, Alfas del Pi and El Vergel amongst others.
Some of the Mayors spoke to the crowds along with representatives from the homes and the CCCO trade Union, who all showed support for the residents and staff of the homes.
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 who number in their hundreds 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.
Union representatives were present at the rallies to plea for a solution to help their workers.
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.
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’’.
Jackie Rogers, a British fundraiser who has lived in Spain made a heartfelt plea to the Mayor’s in attendance, shouting in fluent Spanish:
“If all of you Mayor’s used the money you waste on fireworks at your town’s fiestas in one year and gave it to the homes, the bills and the employees could be paid and the children would be safe”, she cried.
Another group from the Armanello Campsite in Benidorm said that they regularly raised hundreds of euros in fundraising activities to help children in the Rellue home.
It appears obvious that goodwill and support for the plight of the unfortunate residents is widespread and across the board and with officials from the charity meeting Government officials in Valencia during the week, a temporary reprieve looks possible, to allow further talks with the potential new owners to take place.