“They come, they give us a hand with the locals, with the people, they fill their hours and, if they later want to continue linked here, they know that their doors are open”, explains Ramón Palmerín, president of the Association of Veïns El Santuari. The neighborhood is one of those that collaborates with the courts of Reus to offer housing to convicts with jobs for the benefit of the community (TBC), just as Sol i Vista or Mas Pellicer do.
For several months, El Santuari has been supported by two men who come to work for a few hours at its headquarters, three days a week. This is the first experience of its kind for the neighborhood association. “We are not at all interested in what they have done or not done; We didn’t even ask,” explains Palmerín, who is delighted that the two “have integrated very well, we are very grateful to them and I think they are also happy”.
One of the two boys – they prefer not to give their names or show their faces – took charge of the program developed by El Santuari to help people who do not get along well with computers or mobiles. Palmerín says that “it’s been very successful” because “there were mostly older people who didn’t know how to do the digital procedures or even didn’t know how to make an appointment with the doctor.” “He takes care of them, listens to them and resolves everything in an instant,” he says, noting that “he has already resolved outstanding issues for several families who were unable to do so, such as scholarship applications or registrations”.
The other man who fills TBC is in charge of the more physical tasks and which have also represented great improvements for the association. “He repaired a generator, an old sewing machine, a fridge that had broken down, he made us the sink that we needed and he lowered the entrance to the room to make it accessible”, says the president of Le Sanctuaire. “If we had to pay all that, for us, as an association, it would have been a problem,” he adds.
They, who combine work for the benefit of the community with their jobs and their routine life, corroborate that “it is also positive to collaborate in this way”.
“A lot of neighbors come to help them with the laptop and the computer”
The computer advice point against the digital divide offered by the Associació de Veïns El Santuari thanks to the work for the benefit of the community has very good results. “A lot of neighbors come to me asking for help with WhatsApp because they need advice on doing basic things like deleting accumulated messages,” says the TBC that provides the service. “There are also those who want to do paperwork with the computer and who cannot,” he adds. The man, who has a background in computer science, expresses that “we feel good about solving simple questions that serve others”.
The Associació de Veïns El Santuari launched the initiative coinciding with the opening of its premises, at number 1 Antoni Isern Street. “They raised it with us and we detailed in court some profiles that we thought might be useful and, based on that, we moved forward: if there is someone who meets them, we expose what ‘they could do here, they appreciate it and then accept it or not,’ explains Palmerín. “The TBCs are helping us and we are giving them an opportunity,” he said.
Up to 1,132 people were sentenced to work for the benefit of the community in the province of Tarragona in 2021, according to INE data
The expectation is that there will soon be a replacement and two more people will join the neighborhood who could lend a hand in starting new workshops for the neighbors. Previously, the TBCs were also responsible, for example, for keeping the neighborhood sports grounds up to date. “When they respect the agreed times, the work is finished and, then, as they have integrated so well here, they already know where we are and they will always be well received”, explains the president of the association.
In 2021, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), 1,132 people in the province of Tarragona were sentenced to work for the benefit of the community. There are 230 more than the previous year, although the figure is similar to that of 2019 (1,209) and remains stable compared to recent years.
Pioneers and with extensive experience
The Associació de Veïns de Sol i Vista is also committed to this model and has, in fact, been doing so for a long time. “We have TBC from Monday to Sunday and they clean the stream, the parking lot next to the residence, they repair the damage and get involved in the parties”, details its president, Ana Belén Castaño. Right now, “we have about ten people doing different tasks,” he says.
His case was unique in the city and was activated following certain reforms in the premises. Also because of the claims of the neighborhood on the ravine near the houses, which needed a facelift. With the onset of the pandemic, Sol i Vista has been an outlet for people with this type of belief, who have found a place in the neighborhood to carry out their outdoor duties.
“The Federació d’Associacions de Veïns de Reus gave us the idea and, from the first moment, we saw that it worked well,” says Castaño. When it is a matter of work for the benefit of the community, the prisoners must first commit themselves to carrying it out.
The president of the Federació d’Associacions de Veïns de Reus (FAVR), Marcos Massó, specifies that the relationship between the neighborhoods and the TBC “brings benefits to all” because “they carry out tasks necessary for the entities and, at the En at the same time, instead, they spend the day working and complying with what has been imposed on them.” “In the associations that are testing it, it seems that it is going well,” he rejoices.
Although there are entities that work with one or two TBCs, some neighborhood initiatives must involve 20 at the same time
But one of the first neighborhoods to make this commitment was Mas Pellicer. In 2014, the Associació de Veïns I de Maig involved TBC and the residents themselves in a project to improve the image of this district of Reus. Between them, they painted the backgrounds of about 60 blocks which presented a degraded aspect. For this, the neighbors collected about 4,500 euros in aid and contributions to buy all the equipment. And they had people fined with jobs to benefit the community.
At the head of I de Maig, Eduardo Navas comments that to this day, “we still have TBC, which cleans the gardens of the Fundació Pont i Gol because there were weeds”. During this time, “they helped us make the dirt road to the hospital, repair the trees, put concrete cubes in the lampposts and repair the holes”. “They arrived at 20 at the same time and we are grateful to them,” says Navas.