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I found myself on the street, but I am a happy homeless man

20 January 2012 / 23:01:31  GRReporter
7632 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Leon as he introduced himself to me is 64 years old. He is a bright and smiling person. I tell him he looks younger and he replies that this could be due to the good life that he had about three months ago.

Leon has been homeless since 30 September last year. "It all happened very quickly. I owed rent and ended up on the street. Why did I owe? It is because my work was constantly decreasing, and with it, my income."

He is an icon painter. "I work for myself. If there is no demand for the things I do, I cannot make money. Things are very simple." Leon says that work had begun to decline since the end of 2008. "2009 was bearable, 2010 was on the edge, but 2011 was catastrophic."

Leon says he is a happy homeless man. "I was living on the street for 45 days. I was sleeping on a bench. I did not panic, I was not scared and I could say that I even liked it. I was lucky because the weather was nice. It did not rain at all. Then I contacted the organization Klimaka coincidentally. They adopted me and I have been living here ever since. I have a roof over my head, food, clothing, a bath and a bed to sleep."

However, Leon says he is optimistic about the future. "Even if I do not work, I will retire next year anyway. I have worked many years in my life and I paid a bunch of security, so I have the right to be paid a good pension. I say this a little ironically having in mind all the cuts that have been made."

What he misses most is painting. "Minutes before I become homeless I lost my studio. I was expelled from there."

As an icon painter, he knows dozens of representatives of the Church. When he turned to them for help, they gave him their blessing and told him "God is great, do not worry."

"The organization Klimaka, however, was the one that gave me food, clothing, shelter, a bath and a bed. It is not necessary to say anything more about it. It took me under its wings like a mother."

According to Leon, the people who live in the house of the organization feel like a big family. "One for all and all for one. There is simply no other option."

He says that the number of homeless people has increased during the two months he has been living in the house of Klimaka. "People from all nationalities and religions come here. Some of them come here because they are unemployed. We have many builders, plasterers, painters and blacksmiths, who cannot find jobs because the construction industry is currently hampered.

There are others, who take things as a joke. By this I mean people who do not work, but it does not bother them much. They find food, a blanket somewhere and sleep under a bridge. They say to themselves, "I will go to the seaside park in Alimos in summer and I will have a wonderful time.

There are some others, who have no future I think. These are homeless people, who have adapted. They believe that once they find food and a place to sleep somewhere in the street it does not make sense to do anything more for themselves. There are those who just do not want to bother themselves. They are not like old homeless people, who usually had a problem. This is not about such people; they are very well. They just have the routine of this way of living and do not try to do anything for themselves."

How many occupants of the house of Klimaka have a goal and believe that their lives will soon change? Leon believes that they are between 1-5 per cent.

"The best things in life are free. One of them is the ability to dream. All people can dream to do something in the future. But this requires some efforts. And most people here have not set any goals. I think some of them are here precisely because they did not have goals. Many of them are capable but have not bothered to develop their capabilities."

I met Leon during the holiday of homeless people, which was organized by Klimaka - a non-governmental organization supporting the homeless. Several tables, a makeshift buffet and gas stoves were placed among them on the street. And around them, people of different ages, different nationalities, mostly men, were sitting with a cup in their hands and talking.

The small courtyard of the building was crowded with people and the tables were arranged around a kind of a dance floor, to which very few had the courage to go. Most of the people preferred to listen to the orchestra, some were singing. Meanwhile, volunteers continued to arrange food supplies and hygiene materials in the warehouse.

This night was far warmer than the chilly nights during the past ten days. Then, the doors of the shelter were open 24 hours a day to welcome anyone who needed help.

"When I go from here, I will help the organization in every possible way," said grateful Leon with a smile.

Tags: SocietyHomeless peopleCrisisUnemploymentKlimakaHoliday
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