It is a sad but existing phenomenon: Homeless in Greece exist in abundance. During the Christmas and New Year holidays, more than 50.000 poor people turned to the commons organized by the Greek Church and the local municipalities in Athens and Greece.
These 50,000 consist of people who are homeless (approximately 1500 in Athens) and those who are indigent and needy, both locals and immigrants, people who are unable to deal with the common everyday needs.
Athens features today the biggest number of homeless and poor people, since the German occupation in 1940. Experts and professionals predict that due to the economic crisis, these numbers will probably increase even more in the future. It is estimated that approximately 4.400 proportions of food are distributed to homeless, poor and elders by the parishes in Athens on a daily basis.
There are numerous people among us deprived of friends or family, deprived of a house or shelter that can protect and embrace them. For these people, holidays and celebrations come with no delusions. A 20 year-old homeless person in Athens said ‘my desires, my dreams and my wishes are limited to the everyday needs: food, a roof and maybe some job. I cannot have any delusions’.
Once upon a time among the homeless people in Greece, in all major cities, were fringe individuals and groups, lonely people, poor immigrants and low pensioners – especially these who earn 300 Euros per month and do not have any family – or sufferers of all types. Today, there is one more group added to them; the newly poor individuals, those who are mostly hit by the economic crisis and are not able to deal with monthly dues and loans, or the simple everyday needs. Foreclosures, debtors to the Tax Office and banks are multiplying every day, thus, it comes as no surprise that the number of people who cannot afford a house, or cannot handle the daily expenses is also increasing dramatically.
Most of the poor and homeless in Greece today lived, once, under different circumstances. During the 80s and 90s many of these people had a house, a job and some kind of financial stability. Since the introduction of the Euro, though, many things changed. Everything in Greece is quite pricey, while wages are still among the lowest in Europe. People have a hard time dealing with the monthly expenses, especially during this downward economy, with massive lay -offs. If you consider how many people lost their fortunes and their assets during the Stock Market crash a few years ago, it’s not hard to understand why poverty and homelessness are so evident in Greece nowadays.
According to sociologists and experts, the new terms of homelessness are something that requires serious analysis and observation; poverty and homelessness are part of a reality that affects several different types and groups of people today. Athens and Piraeus have the 45% of the total sum of homeless in Greece, although many other cities, such as Heraklion and Chania in Crete seem to have a great deal of homeless people recently.
Poor and Homeless in Crete
The officials and sociologists in Crete suggest that poor individuals and homeless in Chania or Heraklion exist as well.
In Chania, Charitable Associations takes care of the impecunious and necessitous people daily, offering food to families or individuals who need it. The Association “Charitable Brothers – Charitable Commons” offers, as well, medical (mostly dental) support to those people, as there are thirteen dentists whowork pro bono. Moreover, there is a library in the Association open to all needy people and there are computer classes, completely free, for the poor children of the region. Many residents of the city of Chania support these efforts practically. Neither the Association, though, nor the organized commons have anything to do with the official Church.
For many indigenous and homeless in Heraklion, the commons are the only way to find some food every day. According to the officials, the phenomenon is approximately 100 people – among which are 30 families – do not have any other means to find food daily, thus, the commons organized by the municipality and perishes of Heraklion are their only reliance and support.