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Number of homeless in Greece up 25%

According to the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), there has been a dramatic rise in homelessness in Greece. FEANTSA writes: According to official data, unemployment in Greece is expected to climb to between 17% and 18% by the end of 2011, a figure that in reality could be as much as 5% higher. In a country with some of the weakest social provision in Europe, whose government is pushing through a stringent austerity programme, the consequence has been the creation of a new poor, some of whom have been forced on to the streets. Small business owners have been made bankrupt, and families put on the streets. New graduates have been documented among those sleeping rough. And according to workers at the hostel, each week it welcomes two new people, amid fears that the phenomenon of the new homeless could take on "explosive proportions" if the financial crisis continues. According to figures compiled earlier this year by both Klimaka and the Red Cross, some 20,000 people are now living on Greece's streets, including destitute immigrants and native Greeks.

According to this FEANTSA report:

"Today, Greece is placed among the E.U. countries with very high owner occupancy rates (74%) but this number includes a significant number of households (approximately 1/3) who live in poor housing conditions. Compared to other European Member States, homelessness in Greece has only recently been understood to be a social problem, mostly by NGOs. Homelessness, however, has clearly escalated in the last few years due, to a great extent, to the influx of a large number of immigrants from neighbouring countries (Eastern Europe).

Although the Greek Constitution states that the provision of accommodation to people who are homeless or housed in unsuitable conditions constitutes a special task for the State, there is no statutory obligation of local or central government to provide suitable accommodation and support to such people in need. On the contrary statutory practices aim at shifting housing responsibilities to poor families and NGOs without adequate funding.

Traditionally, accommodation problems in Greece have been handled within families. The family – rather than any form of state provision – constitutes the main safety net against homelessness in Greek society to this day. Nonetheless, familistic, religious, and nationalistic values of both social and state actors serve the concealment of homelessness. Social housing provision is minimal and does not even target homeless people. The growing awareness and concern about homelessness in recent years has however led to the creation of various methods to address homelessness, including a limited number of specialised services.

There is severe lack of reliable official data on housing and homelessness in Greece. Research data suggest that the number of street homeless people and those in transitory shelters in the city of Athens is approximately 11,000 (3,000 Greeks and 8,000 foreigners). "

Thursday, September 15, 2011