Moscow’s “Turmalin” Centre for Social Rehabilitation and Treatment to close
According to its Director, Rudolf Grigoryan, the Alekseevsky Centre has been ordered by the municipality to leave its premises by 1 September. The building is to be refurbished, after which there will be a competitive tender for the use of the premises. The Director said the building became the property of the Moscow authorities a year ago, after which it became clear that the Centre would need to find a new home. The Turmalin social therapy centre helps people with psychological and intellectual special needs to rehabilitate and adapt. Adults receive training and can work in four arts and crafts studios, making pottery, candles, textiles and furniture. Children and teenagers receive therapy in groups so as to prepare them for school and colleges, and some teaching is also provided. They also receive individual therapy from a range of specialists, including elocution, music, and art therapy. Mr Grigoryan said that at present 40 people are receiving therapy at the centre. Students from various universities undertake practical experience there. In total about 400 people benefit from the centre’s work, including the families of the special needs individuals. Grigoryan said that there are few places in Moscow and in Russia as a whole where adults with psychological and intellectual special needs receive help. They participate in leisure, games and crafts activities.
The Director of the Centre for Training in Therapy, Anna Bitova, thinks that the closure of the Turmalin Centre is a sign that the announcement by the capital’s authorities that people with special needs, including those with psychological needs, will be integrated into the community is not really being born out by action. (2009 has been declared in Moscow as the Year of Equal Opportunities.) Very little has been done, she said. Among the organisations which are helping persons with special needs are the Rehabilitation Centre “Preodolenie–L”, College N21 in Moscow, and a few others. Each of these specialises in some way; for example, Turmalin works with adults. The Director links the closure of the Centre and a few other leisure centres for children with the forthcoming Moscow Duma and mayoral elections. He said that in July alone 15 other Moscow NGOs have made similar complaints to the Social Services Department. The Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alekseeva, said it had been impossible to stop the eviction of social services providers from their premises, despite the fact that “The Moscow government shares the concerns of human rights organisations”.
In view of the closure of premises used by such organisations, a working group has been set up chaired by the First Deputy Mayor of Moscow Lyudmila Shvetsova. But it does not include any representatives of human rights organizations, which have been trying to prevent the evictions. Alekseeva said that the local administration was inactive but pretended it was helping the community, to avoid criticism. At least two other organisations have had to leave their premises. The Director of the Turmalin intends to send a complaint to the President of Russia, to Mayor Luzhkov, and Ms Shvetsova, and to look for new premises to lease. (It has funds from various sources and voluntary contributions, and implements programmes for the City.)