Dimitris Rapidis

Homeless People in Athens

The Greek NGO “Klimaka” published yesterday its survey for the homeless people in Athens. The period of survey lasted from September 2011 to February 2012 and the results of the collected data demand imminent response.

80% of the people being now homeless are included in the most prolific population range, whereas the wide majority was in a normal economic state just one year ago. In addition to that, the majority of homeless people is highly-educated (i.e. having completed a University degree).

The partition between Greeks and immigrants is also shocking, but also eloquent, as almost 90% of homeless are Greeks and only 10% are immigrants. 80.2% are men, whereas 60% are between 41-55 years old and 27% between 26-40.

As of their previous occupations, 25% was working in the construction sector, 22% were private sector employees, 18% entrepreneurs, and 16% was occupied in the tourism sector. Furthermore, and this is even more appaling, almost 30% has passed at least one day in prison due to economic reasons (e.g. non-payment of loans).

With reference to household conditions, 50% are divorced and parents. In this respect, 60% approximately is faced with intra-family conflicts, and 45% has no sexual life. As long as suicide is concerned, 18% has literally stated that it endeavored to commit suicide.

According to the survey, amongst the most affecting problems we find accomodation and healt treatment, with joblessness following up. Furthermore, and this is something really courageous, most of them are clearly stating that they still believe they can change their actual condition to the best, despite all problems occured.

Nonetheless, as the survey points out, there is no official record concerning the exact number of homeless people in Greece, but just an estimation of around 20,000, with half of them situated in Athens.

The growing problem of homeless in Athens and Greece unveils, apart from the side-effects of the economic crisis, two fundamental disfunctions of the public system: the first is the absence of free healthcare treatment for such people, and the second is the complete absence of any public mechanism of recording and registration of all those homeless people. In addition to that, in the city of Athens there are tens of buildings being completely abandoned, with no prediction of the state and the authorities to use them for sheltering them.

Furthermore, there are no voluntary NGOs or private funds that could grant programs of rehabilitation and social inclusion so that homeless can still feel equal part of the entire society. Exclusion is the most commonly observed effect of social behavior, and this stems first from the restricted projection of this issue from mainstream media. Except for some organizations that endeavor to assist, there is no prevention nor care for homeless people in Athens and Greece. The growing mass of people being homeless will continue remind us that above all, there is nothing more important than strengthening social solidarity, both in individual and corporate level. Athenians should start getting concerned with these people, as the phasm of poverty is one the most pending issues that modern societies have to deal with, and start pressing local authorities to get motivated and mobilize any possible mechanism for fund-raising and voluntary support.

Homeless people is not a Greek issue, but a European one, and the European Union should equally start discussing how to efficiently affront it in a wider and coordinated European level. This is another discussion we will soon launch.

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