Homelessness grips Athens during Greek crisis

Homelessness grips Athens during Greek crisis

Research reveals majority of people sleeping rough in central Athens lost their homes in last five years

By Magda Panoutsopoulou

ATHENS (AA) – For the past five years Greeks have struggled with the huge impact of the economic crisis which has swamped the country.

With salary and pension cuts and Greeks becoming unemployed, many people have lost everything – even the roof over their heads.

According to a survey by the City of Athens’s Homeless Shelter (KYADA), 71 percent of respondents became homeless in the past five years. Just over a fifth of respondents lost their homes in the last year alone.

Anadolu Agency took to the streets of central Athens and spoke to people seeking shelter in parks and abandoned houses. Many of those approached were understandably reluctant to give details on how they had arrived at this point; many also preferred to stay anonymous.

Pavlos T., a 56-year-old former private sector employee, said he had been sleeping rough for the past eight months.

“I lost my job at a factory where I was working for the past six years,” he said. A divorcee and a father, he had been earning 700 euros a month ($784), but could not make his salary stretch to cover his expenses.

The loss of his job also led to estrangement from his family: “My children were living with my ex-wife and I would support them as much as I could…after this was not possible, I lost contact with them,” he says.

Pavlos now lives on the streets of central Athens, always changing his location.

The KYADA study found that more than 62 percent of the city’s homeless are Greeks, with the vast majority being male.

‘Giorgos’, 48, another ex-private sector employee admitted that he was also a drug user. In an obviously poverty-stricken condition, Giorgos said that he was using all his money to get his dosage. He has no one to support him; his parents are dead and he has no siblings.

“The circumstances have forced me to be here. What can I do?” he asks.

Despite the fact that he lives just a few meters from a designated shelter, he prefers to live on the streets. The reason; “I need to follow the rules there; I won’t be able to go out anytime I want and find my dosage.”

According to the KYADA study, 41.2 percent of the homeless respondents stated they were also drug users; a minority were alcohol users and 2 percent abused both substances.

The study also found that 57 percent of the people questioned were aged between 35-55 and almost 30 percent refused to stay at a shelter or at other designated facility.

Nearly half of respondents stated that the reason for being homeless is the loss of job.

Just a few meters from the central metro station in Syntagma Square, in a small park a middle-aged man – who refuses to give details of his age and name – has built a small shelter with cardboard boxes in order to stay dry during the rainy days.

“What do you want to know…how I ended up like this?” he demands. “I have been homeless for more than five years…I was hospitalized – psychiatric clinic – and when I was out, no one opened their door for me, [not] even my own family.

“I don’t have a job so I eat at the shelters of the municipality.”

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