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Survey: The profile of the Greek New-Homeless

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

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  1. Why took it almost TEN months to come out with these results?!
    But that is not as important as the fact that they rightly notice that Greece society has to drastically change the way in which it sees and deals homeless people.
    But it’s not easy. I do not know any country that has good policies to avoid people living on the street. Even when there is no crisis.
    In Belgium, for example, there are around 5000 people permanently living on the street. But almost 45.000 are homeless. In The Netherlands they now officially put the homeless population on 18.000 as of February of this year. And that was the FIRST time this has been officially counted! Tells you a lot about how other societies are dealing with this problem.
    But Greece is at the moment changing from a family based society into an individualistic society. That started already in the ‘fat’ years, when families got smaller and smaller. Therefore less and less able to help out those of the family in need. Be it elderly or other.
    And now, with this 5 year long crisis, a lot of family just don’t have the money anymore to help each other. And while homelessness in many countries is not on the rise, I am afraid it will get much worse in Greece in the future…

    • Why there is always one KTG_ian who has to complain about something? (lol)

      • You’re right. I won’t complain anymore…. that would be boring. *lol*
        So, why DID they wait 10 months? Did they need to write the inteviews out with pen and paper? Did they need consent from their ‘bosses’? Did they first have to wait for the elections. Then the next elections. Then the summer holidays. Then for the first rains. And now, as it is almost Christmas…. Hey, wait! It wouldn’t be that? They wouldn’t have waited until the ‘giving’ season to come out with these figures so the gifts will be bigger???
        Nâââh, that would be crazy as they are doing all they can to help these poor people… 😐

        • ever thought Klimaka is run by volunnters who may have mor eimportant issues to deal with than stupid statistics?

          • These are not “stupid” statistics, but a very important tool to illustrate and highlight the plight of these people they are helping. Media exposure is of the utmost importance if they are really serious about “change the image the society has from the homeless”.
            And I learned a long time ago that it should not matter if an organisation is run by volunteers or professionals. They both have to work to achieve professional results. If not, they are likely to do more harm then good and should stop. Hiring and firing is one the most prickly subjects these volunteer organisations always seem not willing to tackle. But they really should.
            OK, I know full well that firing is a total taboo in Greek society as a whole. And look where that brought us. 😉

          • firing in public sector you mean.
            I could ask: what’s the difference if results brought last March or now?

          • Well then you might ask: Why were they collecting that information if it makes no difference?
            Look, I started out working as a volunteer and later as a professional working with volunteers in organisations concerned with Third World countries. And these facts and these stories where our bread and butter. We would collect them and hound every minister and parliamentarian with them. Often succeeding in stopping or changing mayor developments.
            Information like this can be very influential in the run-up to elections. We had that in May/June. And they did not use that. Information like that can be very helpful if you want public opinion in Greece, but also abroad, to know how really badly common, decent people are effected by the measures that are taken and not taken the last couple of years.
            While interviewing those homeless they probably collected a wealth of deeply disturbing personal stories. Those stories are gold if you really want to kick up a fuss. Foreign journalists LOVE those kind of stories. Where I am now the whole main news bulletins are made up of human interest stories. Could you imagine if one or two of those helpers would travel through Europe and would be interviewed in those countries, how big the impact would be? Not only to the homeless, but on the plight of the whole Greek society.
            THAT’s the difference it can make.

          • Ok, I am convinced. thanks

        • There are 3 things that hamper the work of people like Klimak. Firstly, as KTG rightly points out, these people are volunteers and are much more interested in the real issues at hand than in the stateistics and figures. After all, statistics don’t keep you warm when sleeping rough, a blanket does…
          Secondly, the homeless themselves. These people do have their dignity (only too often denied them by society at large), and are not too inclined to start shouting from the rooftops. Ever wonder why they look for hidden corners and roads less travelled?
          Thirdly, attitude from the authorities. Here is a shocking tale from Ireland. Last week, a homeless man was found dead in the doorway of a shop unit in one of Dublin’s more affluent satellite towns. A local politician called for measures to be put in place to allow shopowners to take steps to prevent those people from sleeping there. Bad for the economy, don’t you know…Not a mention of the homeless man.
          If you want an example of how the problem of poverty and homelessness should be dealth with, look at Nepal. All the temples are permanently open and the monks provide food and shelter for anybody who walks through the door. Every family that can afford to do so cooks an extra portion when preparing food for the family and this is given to the temples to feed those less well of. It really doesn’t cost anything to anybody, and creates a proper community spirit.
          Their society deals with a societal problem as a society instead of relying on a few individuals, who are then frowned upon as “do-gooders” and a bit simple for trying to do something about “them”. Homeless people are full members of society, they are not some disease that needs “curing”. Unfortunately, most societies treat them precisely like that, a disease.
          Society at large treats the homeless, and the poor in general, as an “inconvenience” that must “be dealt” with instead of seeing it as a failure of society to look after those who find it difficult to look after themselves. In the vast majority of cases, that difficulty in looking after themselves is caused by society…

  2. What a shame. As an American, it’s common for us to ignore homeless and even get a bit aggressive in not helping them since many of us believe that they choose to be homeless. Whether it’s true or not is another story, but if you believe that it is easier to ignore them.

    But, in Greece, where families are supposed to help each other, it’s strange to me that this occurs. Where are there mothers, brothers, aunts and uncles who come out of the woodwork like the “Big fat greek wedding”. Has Greek society become “Americanized” in not caring about homeless.

    I too pass them KTG and don’t always give but sometimes I do. It’s not up to you to take the burden, we all share it.

    • when budgets are tight due to income cuts, the heart may get tight as well. Would you take the uncle to your home and save him from being homeless? I think the problem has to do with many socio-economic factors, incl the fact that families do not live all together like in BFGwedding.

      • I wouldn’t let my brother be homeless, and hope my father wouldn’t let my uncle be homeless. But, it’s one thing to speculate and another to be in the situation.

  3. Sometimes I feel people don’t like me because I’m foreigner but I smile and make them see me as person and not as immigrant. I am lucky my Greek landlord ok with me to be late on rent sometime

  4. KTG, on a side note, what happened to the 10 latest comments we used to enjoy on KTG. Now, I see it’s only 5 again? It was nice to be able to scan the last 10 comments to see where the action was on discussion.