Spanish football club saves pensioner from homelessness

Rayo Vallecano’s staff steps in after 85-year-old is evicted over son’s debt

The players and staff of a Spanish football team have stepped in to rescue an 85-year-old woman from homelessness after her flat was repossessed.

Carmen Martínez was evicted from her home in the Madrid district of Vallecas on Friday, because she was the guarantor of a debt her son had taken on from a private lender and which he was unable to pay back. The scenes of Ms Martínez crying as she was escorted from her home and of angry neighbours appealing in vain to the police to stop the eviction went viral.

"We're not going to do nothing, we're going to help that lady," said Paco Jémez, coach of local first division team Rayo Vallecano, on Saturday. "Not just me, but the whole coaching staff and the players."

Mr Jémez and his staff agreed to pay an unspecified monthly sum to Ms Martínez in order for her to be able to rent a new home. The basic terms were agreed on when Ms Martinez, who was widowed seven years ago, met with the coach and representatives of an anti-eviction organisation at Rayo Vallecano’s ground.


“I’m very proud to be able to give a hand,” Mr Jémez said. “I’d like to help more people, but it’s impossible. In this particular case, because it’s a local lady, we as a club can’t pass up the chance to help.”

Ms Martínez’s son, Luis Jiménez, took out the €40,000 private loan in 2010, after his bank refused his request for credit. His family says he needed the money to get through financial difficulties after a divorce and losing his job, and also to renovate his home. However, he failed to pay the sum back and with the accumulated interest the debt rose to €77,000. The terms of the loan meant that his mother’s property, valued at €160,000, was liable for foreclosure.

"I didn't know anything about it," Ms Martínez told El País newspaper. "I don't know how to read or write, all I can do is sign my name. So I asked my neighbour to help me [read the contract] and that was when we found out."

The Spanish government and Madrid City Hall have also got involved, each promising they will help find new accommodation for Ms Martínez, who receives a monthly pension of €630.

Evictions have been one of the most visible effects of Spain’s recent economic crisis, which was in great part caused by an overheated property sector. An unemployment rate which is still at 24 percent and strict mortgage laws have meant that tens of thousands of families have lost their homes.

Last year, the government introduced changes to the law, after intense campaigning by activists. However, new figures show that the number of evictions from occupied homes increased 17 percent in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period a year earlier.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain