I saw this one man recently while I was turning my usual walking rounds at the coast of Athens, in Palaio Faliro. A man in his late 40′s, tall, well-built, dressed in cord trousers and jacket, shirt and pullover. From far away, I had the feeling the man was standing or walking extremely slowly. He had a kind of weird movement like a street artist or an absent-minded thinker. Right there, in the middle of the promenade, near the sea, exposed to winds coming from all directions. He seemed to watch carefully and ‘judge’ the passersby. When I came close I heard his voice telling me “Ma’m, you got a euro?”
“aaaaaa!” screamed a shocked voice inside my head as I continued my brisk walking. “He must be one of the many homeless, we read about” I thought and continued walking. Unfortunately I had just 1 euro 40 in my pocket for the ticket to return home.
I kept walking wondering how this man became homeless and what was his profession before he saw himself obliged to take to the streets and start begging for money. I kept walking deeply regretting I didn’t give him my 1.40 euro. The moment our lives crossed lasted two seconds or so, but the impression remained. That was three weeks ago.
On Sunday night, being in downtown Athens with friends, we saw two men trying to make themselves comfortable in the tiny yard of a church. Layers of blankets and thin carpets and up they slipped in two sleeping bags.
I must admit we look at them and wonder about the economic crisis and the reasons that kicked them away from four walls and a roof above their heads… How did their previous normal life looked like, where do they come from, what are their thoughts and if they have any perspectives at all.
Today, Klimaka, the Athens-based non-governmental organization helping the homeless, gave some answers to my/our questions concerning the new Greek phenomenon, called the “neo-homeless”.
Survey: The profile of Greek neo-homeless
Klimaka, the NGO taking care of homeless, conducted a survey among 214 homeless and thus from September 2011 until February 2012, in an effort to capture the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the neo-homeless. The survey results were presented on Wednesday at the hostel of Klimaka in downtown Athens:
88.2% of respondents are male and 17.8% female.
33% of today’s homeless are divorced, while 47.2% have children.
The majority of homeless people were working in professions that were particularly hit by the economic crisis.
24.8% worked in technical professions in the construction sector
22% worked as employees in the private sector
18% were self-employed
16% worked in the tourism sector
64.8% have been homeless less than two years, while more than half ‘reside’ in the historic center of Athens.
29.8% beleive that they became homeless due to financial problems; 17.3% due to unemployment.
Asked who is responsible about their condition, 47.60% answered the politicians and 25.70% answered all of us.
63.8% of the asked homeless said they had been sleeping only outdoors during the last year.
10.5% said they sought refuge in a car
14.3% said, they have gone at least once to a hospital to spend the night.
For more than the half (52.4%) ensuring food is not a daily problem. For 47.1% clothing is not a problem.
For 41% problem is to find a place to bathe.
Among the most important needs is housing (85.6%), health care (83.1%), work (76.5%) and personal care (75%).
Half of them live with with zero euro or up to 20 euro per month.
63.5% said their families were aware of their homeless situations and that 67.5% were hostile or indifferent.
45.2% said the had no friend
18.1% said they had tried to commit suicide at least once.
However, a very large percentage of homeless people (79.8%) believe that the situation can change for the better.
In an open question about what they believe it should be done for people to avoid homelessness, 71.7% said that there should be a state prevention.
Ada Alamanou, the head of ”Klimaka“, stressed at the press conference the necessity of political will and institutions in order to address the phenomenon of the homeless.
“However, only state care is not enough. We need the cooperation of all state institutions and the society. It is important that we change, that the society change. We have to be more informed, more aware of this problem. We have to change the image the society has from the homeless.”
According to Klimaka, there has been a 25% increase in Greece’s homeless population since 2009. Their total number is estimated to be at least 20,000 people.
Klimaka offers homeless food, clean clothes, first aid and bathe possibilities. Further more it has a suicide helpline tel 1018 and a residential helpline tel 10520
sources: survey results in.gr