NEWS

City of Athens, NGOs in EU-funded drive to help Greeks living on streets

A joint campaign by the City of Athens and four nongovernmental organizations aims to provide support for the growing ranks of the capital’s homeless and help with their social integration, Kathimerini understands.

The initiative, termed “a social experiment” by Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis, is being funded with 918,000 euros in European Union structural funding and involves a close cooperation – unprecedented for Athens – of municipal authorities and four NGOs – Klimaka, Doctors of the World, Praksis and Equal Society. The organizations have experience in tackling homelessness, a relatively new problem in Greece which has been exacerbated by the country’s austerity-fueled recession.

As part of the initiative, City Hall plans to announce a social housing program in the coming weeks similar to schemes already operating in other European countries, where homeowners offer properties they are not using for homeless people to stay in. The Hatziconstas charity institute has already donated an apartment block on Bouboulinas Street in Exarchia for use by homeless citizens.

An overnight hostel operated by Doctors of the World in the neighborhood of Akadimia Platonos serves the same purpose, accommodating 50 people at a time. At a presentation in Athens on Thursday, aid worker Evgenia Thanou said visitors were permitted to stay a maximum of five days in a row at the hostel before rotating to allow others to enjoy its benefits. The average resident at the Akadimia Platonos hostel is Greek, male and aged around 45, she said, noting that applications for residence are made at the offices of Klimaka.

Praksis, which operates day centers for the homeless in Athens and Piraeus, has some 3,754 people registered on its books. Of these, 1,980 registered last year. Half of all the applicants are families, a third live on the streets while a quarter have homes but face eviction.

The actual number of people living on the streets in Greece is believed to be much higher than that recorded by NGOs, and exceeds 30,000 across the country according to some estimates. Many of the homeless sleep on the streets, others in derelict or abandoned buildings.

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