Valencia’s soup kitchen Casa Caridad in The New York Times?
On 21st April 2009 The New York Times published an article about Valencia’s situation. Crisis, deflation, financial default, unemployment, wage cuts…: Alarm bells are going off! The article explained that the effects of this downward spiral were evident at Valencia’s principal soup kitchen: la Asociación Valenciana de Caridad, known as Casa Caridad: the House of Charity. This institution, hich is private and secular, opened its doors in 1906, founded by Valencia’s Mayor José Sanchis Bergón, in order to eradicate begging in our city. Since then, the House has not closed its doors for a single day, not even during the Civil War or the great flood of Valencia in 1957.
Which are the activities that the House currently undertakes? The aim of our work is to promote social justice. The main objective is to meet the basic needs of people, promote better self-esteem, and help restore personal dignity looking forward, finally, to a full social reintegration.
We provide our users with more than a dozen social services that aim to offer a better life to all people in difficulty:
- Soup kitchens in two locations in Valencia, Torrent and Paterna. We supply meals, mainly lunches, but also sandwiches for dinner. Kids attending the nursery school and people using the shelter get mid morning and afternoon snacks and a dinner (shelter). Attendees receive full and caloric menus, adapted and studied by nutritionists and respecting their religious concerns.
- Shelter: for women, men and full families. It is the only residential center in Valencia, not permanent, in which we provide accommodation, food and psychosocial care.
- Day center: Many people living on the street or who are involved in processes of exclusion, have lost habits and personal autonomy and even suffer deterioration processes and intoxication. We offer professional educational work for homeless people.
- Nursery schools: three children’s schools, one in Valencia and two in Torrent, serving 106 children of 0-3 years and their families. We had more than 190 requests in 2014. Schools have a dual function: schooling for children at this stage and on the other hand, helping reconcile work and family life. We aim to provide children a standardized, safe and nurturing environment where kids can learn habits and routines, work contents of this educational stage as well as interact with their peers.
- Clothing: We provide a full change of clothes to all the users of the Shelter and to the children of the Nursery school.
- Hygiene programs: the House is the only place in Valencia where people can shower and shave for free.
- Laundry: People can use our washing machines to wash their clothes.
- Hairdresser: Voluntary workers provide full hairdresser service including hair coloring.
- Podiatrists and chiropodists: This is a very useful service for our users.
- Convalescent module: basic care, attention and support to vulnerable people who do not have family or social networks and whose state of health requires them to make a lengthy stay either because of an operation, illness or poor physical condition.
- Training workshops: to promote attitudes such as personal recovery, we run workshops on health, hygiene and sport with the aim that the user acquires greater autonomy.
- Career guidance: it serves mainly long-term unemployed who have exhausted almost all benefits. People are helped in the creation of basic tools for job search, are guided by profiles and are accompanied throughout the process, ensuring motivation.
- Finding housing: We help users find a house to rent or a room in a shared flat and anticipate the process of adaptation of living standards after the departure from the Shelter.
- School family program: educational talks on nutrition, self-esteem and personal growth, responsible parenting, parent-child communication, games, drug prevention, new technologies, norms, habits and boundaries, family planning …
This is the summary of our achievements in 2014:
- 386,805 distributed food rations,
- 893 overnight stays at the Shelter,
- 106 children in our schools,
- 800 showers
- 342 full clothing changes
- 225 hairdresser services
- 113 people have taken advantage of the social and labor orientation workshop,
- 44 people have found a job thanks to the support of social workers,
- 168 customized actions,
- Almost 457.000 actions, all for free, for people who need it.
We would like to be unnecessary, that would mean that nobody should find themselves in dire need. Unfortunately, we have detected cases of chronic poverty among users of social canteens for the first time and we see a worsening of the health of the homeless.
Our main objectives for 2015 are:
– Start the training program “Creating opportunities” for obtaining the title of ESO.
- Take home and hospital visits to people in risk of exclusion,
- And the main issue: finishing the works of our new multi Social Care Centre in Benicalap.
And all this is possible thanks to the support of 3,654 partners, 4,058 donations and 244 voluntary workers. Please join us, help with donations or by volunteering. Contact us via the website: www.casacaridad.com
Agnès Noguera Borel
Member of the executive board of Casa Caridad