City denies it evicted homeless from square

The City of Athens on Monday denied reports that it has removed benches from Klafthmonos Square in the city center to prevent homeless people from sleeping there — the municipality says that their removal is part of a wider effort to revamp the area.

City Hall issued a statement saying that it launched a regeneration scheme in September and that the program is due to be completed before the end of the year. The scheme is designed to make the square more welcoming as it had become a hub for vagrants, drug addicts and petty criminals.

?The square had literally become a no-go area,? the municipality said in a statement. ?The benches, as well as other parts of the square?s infrastructure, are being replaced. The state that they were in was not fitting for a European capital.

?The effort to regenerate Klafthmonos Square will culminate in a series of Christmas events that will be held there, starting on December 16.?

Klimaka, a nongovernmental organization offering support to the homeless and depressed, estimated there were 20,000 homeless people in Athens at the end of 2010, a 25 percent rise compared to a year earlier.

The City of Athens said that the revamp of Klafthmonos Square did not affect its policy on assisting homeless people in any way.

?The City of Athens shows every day that it is aware of its social mission, especially with regard to homeless people, through the reception center for the homeless and the other services it offers,? the municipality said. ?However, it seems that some people imagine the homeless should spend the rest of their lives on benches and other residents should be trapped in ghettos.?

Speaking on Monday, Mayor Giorgos Kaminis, revealed that the municipality is looking into providing incentives for electric cars to be used in Athens. This includes tax breaks, reduced parking charges and a lifting on restrictions to entering the city center. Kaminis also said that incentives would be provided to firms to construct recharging points for electric vehicles in downtown Athens.

The City of Athens signed a cooperation agreement with Nissan?s Greek dealership to develop the project.