Last night TheCanary.TV, in an exclusive, went live with the sudden, and previously unknown discovery of a planned attempt to evict the volunteer-led charitable association, known as The Food Project, (Proyecto Vecinal de Alimentos de Mogán Nabohjelpen) from their main distribution premises in Arguineguín, where they have worked over the last 11 years to coordinate assistance for literally hundreds and hundreds of Mogán families as part of their work to support the poorest in our community.
While the CIUCA Mogan majority led town council have repeatedly expressed their distaste for this citizen-led project, they have apparently never tried to address the underlying issue that necessitates this group of volunteers working to ensure that poverty-stricken residents of Mogán are supported when they are failed by the system, whether this be due to problems of unemployment, homelessness, learning difficulties, rough sleeping and various health issues for which scant assistance, if any, is provided by the municipal government of Gran Canaria’s south west.
It seems the live broadcast, from editor-in-chief Edward Timon, has rattled some cages. Having now been viewed more than 8,000 times, this morning the Mogán Town Hall announced a hastily put together “press conference“, to explain, in their own words, why they had passed this motion without consultation, a decision that risks putting to an end the work of this community project, run by the Asociación Vecinal de Las Lomas Dos, neighbours association. The Mayor and the Councillor for Social Services, having so quietly added this minor agenda item earlier this week, sure had a lot to say in the more than half hour press conference at 1215, which, it may be pointed out, took more than double the 15 minutes they had allowed for the 12 noon meeting in which the motion was carried today to begin the attempted eviction of the project from their main base.
Here is what the town hall had to say this evening on the official council website, Mogan.es, citing various hotly refuted accusations against this team of neighbours working so hard, from municipal premises, to try to protect and support some of the most vulnerable in our community:
In the clauses of the transfer of the premises, its exclusive use for the distribution of food is contemplated, however it is also being used as a warehouse for belongings, a fact not allowed. Furthermore, among the obligations contracted by the entity is the guaranteeing of the good condition of the facilities, making necessary repairs as well as paying for water and electricity.
“After eleven years the obligations have not been fulfilled, which has led us to intervene in the face of the numerous deficiencies endorsed by the technical reports on Public Works, Health and Consumption and Public Services,” Mayor Bueno pointed out. The reports contemplate the multiple problems that this place presents, such as the accumulation of large items that in turn has caused the existence of rodents in the old Arguineguín Infant School. Also the absence of hygienic-sanitary measures due to the lack of adequate thermal installation that does not allow acceptable interior air quality, circuits bridged in the electricity supply, deficiencies in protection systems, humidity and more leading to the conclusion that the premises does not meet the minimum conditions of habitability.
The Las Lomas Neighbourhood Association has received, on multiple occasions, from municipal staff, request to remove the stored items, warnings that it has ignored. “The accumulation of large objects, added to the other deficiencies, represents a potential fire risk,” said the mayor.
“When we entered the Government in 2015, we made first contact with the Association to find out the role it played with regard to the distribution of food. At that time we were already aware of the existing coordination problems between the social workers and the Association, since there was no communication on their part regarding the people who received food, which is essential to avoid duplicating aid” said Councillor Alonso.
Already in 2014, the previous government group tried to sign a collaboration agreement whereby the Association would have to provide the Town Council with a monthly list of users who come to collect food from the premises, so as to exclude them upon requests or indications of a social worker – either because they already receive aid from the Town Hall itself or because their income is sufficient to meet their basic needs. “The president of the Association never agreed to sign the agreement, proof of the refusal to collaborate with municipal Social Services,” said Alonso.
“Throughout all these years we have tried on various occasions to coordinate this work, but it has never been achieved. Only a few emails have been exchanged with the Association’s Project, in which some files on people who benefit from the distribution of food were requested,” continued Alonso. Despite having received responses to e-mails from Social Services about users who do not meet the requirements to receive the distribution of food, the Association, being aware of the duplication of resources, has continued to provide the service to these people.
There are several official documents that support that there must be coordination and collaboration of inescapable compliance between non-profit entities and the public network of social services, including documents from the Spanish Agricultural Guarantee Fund, the Food Bank of Las Palmas 2019 Annual Report and the General Social Work Council.
Based on these documents, the Town Council has attempted to coordinate with the Neighbourhood Food Project and has continued to refer users. However, after analysing the data that the entity has provided to the Food Bank of Las Palmas, and published on its website, these numbers do not coincide with the number of cases derived through the municipal Social Services.
“The Association claims to serve 162 people in December 2019 when the Town Council had not derived the same amount. Currently they claim to distribute food to more than 300 families, but only 16 have been referred from Social Services,” Alonso concluded.
Both the mayor and the council have concluded their interventions stressing that it is Social Services who must be the ones to guarantee the right of all people to access the public social protection system in order to accompany, attend to, and cover the basic needs of the population, without forgetting coordination with the third sector that can act as a complement to the work of social work professionals.
Finally, they have thanked the volunteers who have participated in the Neighbourhood Food Project in an altruistic way, from whom they have also asked for understanding of the decision made due to the reasons detailed.”
We will bring you some live coverage of the press conference, and reaction from the association as part of our news round up later this week.