Crisis swells ranks of Greece’s homeless

The homeless population in Athens and other major cities is growing at an alarming rate as an increasing number of Greeks, including young graduates and former traders whose businesses have gone bankrupt, find themselves without work or unable to pay their bills, representatives of non-government organizations have told Kathimerini.

Efi Stamatoyiannopoulou, a nurse who works for the NGO Klimaka, said that the profile of the homeless person in Athens has changed since the onset of an unprecedented debt crisis last year. ?We are seeing an increasing number of young people who are neither drug addicts nor mentally disturbed. Often they are very well educated in fact,? she said. Social workers employed by the Red Cross in Athens paint a similar picture. One told Kathimerini that the Red Cross has received requests for help from several university graduates and a graduate of Deree, or the American College of Greece. ?What we are seeing now is unprecedented. We are being approached by people one would never imagine as homeless,? said Yiannis Sykroutris, the head of the Red Cross?s homeless program. ?There are also owners of small-scale manufacturing units and other traders who have gone bankrupt. We have even seen entire families on the street,? Sykoutris said, noting that most people the Red Cross takes in are Greeks, not destitute migrants.

Estimates by Klimaka and the Red Cross put the number of homeless people in Greece at around 20,000, more than double the official number of 7,720 given by the Health Ministry. Of these, at least 2,000 are thought to be sleeping rough on the streets of the capital, in old warehouses and in abandoned cars. According to NGOs active in the capital, the areas most frequented by homeless people include parts of Thiseio, Koumoundourou and Kaningos Squares, the coach station on Kifissos Avenue, the port of Piraeus, Larissis railway station and the vegetable market at Renti. Stamatoyiannopoulou, the Klimaka nurse, said the situation is going from bad to worse. ?Every week, we see at least two more people on the street who have lost their homes. If this crisis deepen, the problem will take on explosive proportions,? she said.