Faced with a burgeoning number of homeless people, the Greek government is working on legal as well as practical measures in a bid to contain the social fallout from the vicious financial crisis.
One of the first steps is drawing up a legal definition for the homeless. Greece is one of the few European countries without a legal framework in this matter, something that the Health Ministry is currently trying to change.
Speaking to Kathimerini on Friday, deputy Health Minister Markos Bolaris said a ministry commission is busy drawing up a legal amendment that will set the parameters for state aid for persons living in the streets. The amendment is to be included in a bill to be submitted to Parliament by the end of the month.
The Klimaka charity group estimates that the number of homeless in Greece has jumped by 20-25 percent in the past two years to up to 20,000. These are remarkable figures for a nation where traditionally strong family ties have acted as bulwark against such phenomena.
Experts point out that the profile of Greece?s homeless is changing, affecting previously immune people with a high education level who have abruptly found themselves without jobs or accommodation.
Bolaris said the ministry will cooperate with local municipalities to provide the needy with temporary accommodation in hotels and hostels facing financial difficulties. A voucher distribution program will provide homeless persons with coupons that can be redeemed to pay for a specific amount of time in such accommodation.
?This will give them hope and a more solid foundation to help them fight for their life. It?s a lot easier for them to look for a job, to fight for a better life if they have access to the basics: sleep, cleanliness and food,? Bolaris told Kathimerini.
The government hopes to use European Union funds to finance the program.
In related news, a 62-year-old homeless man was found dead on a bench on the island of Crete on Sunday. It was the fourth such incident to be reported in a month.