NGOs call for permanent policy for homeless

Emergency measures not enough, experts say, amid low turnout at shelters

Amid reports that only a handful of people have taken advantage of the hospitality centers set up for homeless citizens by the City of Athens, despite the cold snap, representatives of nongovernment organizations on Thursday stressed the need for a comprehensive policy for permanent housing as opposed to emergency solutions.

“We are not against emergency measures but a preventive policy needs to be set out,” Spyros Psychas, the head of the Greek Network for the Right to Shelter and a Home, told Kathimerini. He noted that protection should not only be offered to those sleeping on the streets but also to those living in substandard accommodation or facing eviction.

There is no official record of the number of Greece’s homeless, which is estimated at 20,000 and rising, but criteria were recently introduced to legally classify people as homeless. Having legal residence in Greece is a prerequisite for this status but establishing this is often difficult as often homeless people have no ID, NGO representatives pointed out.

The low absorption rate of European Union funding for homeless projects is another problem, according to Tzanetos Antypas, the president of Praksis.

Separately, it emerged on Thursday that the Union of Greek Shipowners is offering to support 500 low-income Athens families with a 35-kilogram package of food every month.