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Banks closed, ATMs squatted

ATMs that become homeless shelters. It is a picture that occurs frequently in many cities and Elche is no exception. After the pandemic, the closure of bank branches has accelerated (it is estimated that in the province of Alicante they lower the blind one every four days) and this has ended up causing their immediate squatting, something that historically occurs in those that continue to operate, where some It is no longer possible to withdraw money at night because the banks have decided to prevent access to prevent you from sleeping inside.

A closed ATM on Alicante Avenue with a person sleeping. | INFORMATION

However, behind this great social problem that is that of people who do not have resources and have no other options than ATMs, there are other collateral consequences reported by neighbors who live with homeless people at the doors of their houses.

An example of this is what has been happening for months on the landing of a closed bank office, right on Avenida de Alicante, in Altabix. Between these four walls, the entrance and exit of the homeless is a constant. Sheltered between cardboard, blankets, and junk cars, they spend the night, cook and relieve themselves. And that place ends up in unsanitary conditions that have sparked neighborhood complaints. The community of owners of the building where the closed ATM is located claims to have called the Local Police to evict thembut when the agents empty the landing the next morning it is again occupied by another person who seeks shelter.

And this has been going on for a few days. in the most important street in the center of Elche, in the Corredora, where the closure of another bank just a few days ago has caused the same situation. A few hours after emptying, a person was already sleeping at his door.

“The only option left to them is the place where they generate the least inconvenience and they are these types of places, places where nobody is going to kick them out, although it does not always happen and the neighbors call to evict them,” explains Gorka Chazarra. , president of Conciénciate, one of the associations of Elche that, together with Cáritas, are witnesses every night of the crudest face of poverty.

The route of poverty in Elche

Conciénciate volunteers carry out a route through the city three days a week to look for homeless people, accompany them, offer them dinner and social support, an intervention that is reinforced on cold days.

Your spokesperson offers an explanation as to why these squats that they become so annoying for the neighbors and that as a background they have a housing alternative problem. “The Cáritas shelter only has 35 places and in the streets of Elche there are more than 50 homeless people who have to sleep somewhere,” he says, who also recalls that there are no public toilets in the city.

More municipal media

Social Services of the City Council, which also intervenes with the homeless and in fact has a municipal monitoring commission, in which associations participate, to have all the homeless identified, guarantees to be working on increasing the resources to mitigate these situations and that no one has to sleep on the street.

This was stated to this newspaper by its councilor, Mariano Valera, who explains that what it is about is having a “closed circuit” of intervention that completes the work that the Cáritas shelter already has and that it is insufficient given the reality that exists in the city. Specifically, what this municipal department is working on is creating a «low demand device», close to the one that the inter-parish association has in Carrús, designed so that homeless people can spend the night without a time limit in individualized rooms and take a shower. “What we want is to be able to get a first hook so that they are not on the street and from there work to get them off the street because it is a difficult reality that sometimes involves mental health problems,” said Valera, who pointed to his intention that the Ministry can be involved in this initiative.