Kallithea clean-up effort headed by Thiseas

Kallithea was a drug haunt for almost two decades. «People used to arrange deals on the phone in my store,» said a local convenience store owner, referring to the pre-mobile phone era. «They’d arrange to meet on the corner; the dealer would turn up on a motorcycle, hand over the bag to the customer and vanish. And the police would be playing cards at the cafe next door.» He believes that things have calmed down since the days when Davaki Square was like Omonia and petty theft was rife. «That’s all in the past,» said a police official. «The big drug hangouts are all downtown now.» These days, the deals are done closer to the river and the alleyways around the ISAP electric railway stations. «Not a day goes by without some stoned youth staggering in here to tell us he’s hungry,» said an employee at a supermarket near Kallithea station. «They put us in a difficult position, since we have to pay for whatever we give them. But we can’t bring ourselves to throw them out. They’re usually only about 20 years old.» Thiseas, an open rehabilitation community set up by a municipal initiative, has played a large part in combating drug use in Kallithea. It opened in 1990, when the problem was at its worst. «Our program lasts around two years,» Thiseas psychiatrist Stelios Krasanakis told Kathimerini. «We take in about 20 people, and not only from Kallithea.» Most of these are men aged 20-30. They are provided with psychotherapy, occupational therapy and drama therapy to help them kick the habit. «We work closely with users’ families and with all the significant people in their lives,» said Krasanakis. «Apart from individual and group psychotherapy, we also use art a great deal as a therapeutic tool.» The center has photography, handicrafts, painting, dance and drama groups. «Our aim is to bring out their hidden desires that have been smothered by the desire for drugs,» he said. They stay in a neoclassical building on Arapaki Street from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and their days are full of activity. «We want to introduce them to community life with shared responsibilities. We all eat our midday meal together and they take it in turns to cook,» explained the psychiatrist. The program gets results: 90 percent of the participants successfully give up drugs and integrate into society.

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