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Bank for the poor is being established in Greece

04 January 2012 / 20:01:58  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The results from the study of the Greek Statistical Service on income and living conditions in the country in 2010 are alarming. One in five Greeks or 20.1 percent of the population is at risk of complete poverty. The financial poverty line is estimated at 7,178 Euros per person and 15,073 Euros per household with two adult members and children less than 14 years of age.

According to the study most threatened are unemployed women - 40 percent, and families with one parent and at least one minor child - 33.4 percent. Particularly disturbing is the result for children of up to 17 years of age - 23 percent.

Meanwhile the number of homeless in the region of Attica is increasing. Currently they are about 15,000, and this number includes also people who have lost their homes and are forced to stay for some time with their family or friends or to sleep in their cars.

According to the non-government organization "Politis" (Citizen) the problem with homeless people is particularly acute in northern Greece, where their average age is between 20 and 30 years. Psychologists and other professionals have blamed the phenomenon on the economic crisis and the lack of institutions supporting those specific population groups.

Researcher Michalis Katsimitsis told GRReporter about the initiatives undertaken by the organization to help disadvantaged people. They go around Greece with the "social citizen bus" and inform people about the problems that have been caused by the crisis and the existing initiatives in order to help.

"The main problems are unemployment, the increasing number of homeless people and those who are struggling to pay off their loans to banks. Within this framework we inform people of our idea to create a "social bank" which will be the same as the "Bank for the poor" established by Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh. Similar "banks" already exist in at least 17-18 countries. Its goal is to help by giving small loans to heavily indebted people who cannot turn to banks.” The loan will have better conditions, such as providing voluntary work when recipients do not have the necessary funds.

The initial goal of the organization, however, is the creation of "an electronic platform where every person who has legal or financial problems can turn to a professional of the organization for advice. Our goal is to change the mentality of the people and guide them to accept the idea of ​​social solidarity." As a second step "Politis" plans on opening a special office where people with disabilities will receive free tips on how they can gradually pay off their obligations, to find work, to open a small subsidized business, as well as legal advice.

Informing the public is not only done by distributing leaflets, but also with clowns and street theatre companies, with performances that convey social messages. Today the organization's bus was ​​in the Thessaloniki suburb of Filiro, and throughout 2011 it has driven at least 60 volunteers to the areas of Thrace, Macedonia, Western Macedonia, the Peloponnese and many islands.

Tags: Greece Attica homeless crisis economy Thessaloniki
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