Sounding quite pleased with himself, Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis on Sunday announced a municipal program to register homeless people in the center of the Greek capital. The program was launched on Saturday.
Now here’s a small but very interesting detail: Whereas those involved in carrying out the program recorded a total of 183 homeless individuals, the actual number of people living on the streets of the city center is much higher than that. The reason is that municipal officials did not cover certain areas which are known to attract high numbers of homeless people. Officials stayed away for safety reasons.
Take a moment to think about this: The country’s largest municipality has completed “the biggest and most systematic action to have been carried out by a public agency” in the Greek capital to help out people living in the streets. The main objective was to get a more accurate number of these individuals, but this didn’t happen due to concern for the safety of people carrying out the registration. In other words, municipal staff, officials working for nongovernmental organizations and student volunteers couldn’t approach neighborhoods with high numbers of homeless people, simply because they were deemed dangerous. They are also dangerous for residents and unsuspecting tourists – and, presumably, the homeless themselves.
The above fear constitutes the clearest admission by an official agency about the utter failure of local government to offer citizens the basic minimum. People walking in the city center see desperate addicts injecting themselves with drugs in the middle of the day at the entrance to the Cultural Center of the City of Athens on Academias Street or on Mavromataion Street next to the Pedion tou Areos park and turn their heads away while picking up their pace.
Campaigns like this latest one at City Hall are of course useful, but speaking about them in such a proud tone is certainly inappropriate. Such attitudes are an offense to wise-headed citizens who every day return home with their heads down. Not only because of what they see, but also because of what they read.