City traders protest squatters

Residents and traders around one of the most central squares of the capital, behind the Council of State building, are calling on authorities to intervene as the presence of dozens of homeless people sleeping rough and taking drugs have made the area dangerous and unsightly. According to locals, the squatters sleep on benches on Dikasterion Square, make use of local fountains and chemical toilets and hang clothes and other belongings on the branches of trees in the broader area. An employee who works in a local building housing lawyers’ offices and a branch of National Bank told Kathimerini that appeals for local authority intervention were first made three years ago when the problem started. «The municipality said that the homeless people had refused to cooperate with social services, apart from taking the free meals on offer, and had said it could not offer them places at the municipal shelter because they were drug addicts,» the employee said. He, and dozens of other local employees, traders and residents, were advised instead to turn to the police to discuss their concerns about their own safety and that of their homes and businesses. One local trader told Kathimerini that municipal police officers pass through the area regularly but chiefly to issue tickets for parking offenders. «They don’t deal with the homeless people at all,» the trader said. As for regular police officers, their interventions are said to be infrequent and ineffective. «They tell the squatters to leave but then they come back the following day, which is hardly surprising as they have nowhere else to go,» another local businessman remarked. The problem is particularly bad at night when the use and trade of drugs among the squatters peaks, a local shopkeeper said. «These people are addicted to drugs and live in wretched conditions. Something must be done,» he said. Another local trader said he insists on accompanying women and children visiting and leaving his shop late at night, adding that he has to clear the area in front of his shop of syringes and even human excrement in the mornings.