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A private organisation opens a block for homeless in the centre of Athens

30 October 2013 / 20:10:43  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The block at 36 Bouboulinas Street in the centre of Athens does not differ in appearance from the surrounding buildings, except, perhaps, for its freshly painted façade. Six months ago it was abandoned but now it is almost ready to shelter its slightly unusual residents.

After the repairs carried out with the help of the newly established non-profit organisation "Humane people" the building will house homeless people as stated by the organisation's head Vera Messini for GRReporter.

"We ​​will provide them not only with a house but also with food and health services. These people need psychological support too. Many of my fellow psychologists and psychotherapists are ready to help them for free. When you have been in the street for a long period of time, this state affects the psyche in different ways. The ultimate goal is for the people to be able to reintegrate into society, have a job and regain their dignity, because when we do not work we lose our dignity as persons."

The first step in this direction will be made by the organization itself: "The people will help us with the painting, cleaning and other work in order to prepare the premises so that the next people in their condition can use them. So, they will be paid for their daily work.

Our second plan is to form a group that will seek employment for them and the third involves those of them who wish to be, and could be, trained to work in the cultivation of organic agricultural products." The organisation has already taken steps to obtain unused areas where they could start this activity."

The homeless people who will be accommodated in the "social block" as Vera Messini calls it will sign a contract for accommodation for a period of three years. Their stay may be extended if, after the expiry of this period, the crisis in Greece continues.

Large families with young children and the elderly, who are registered as homeless in the register of the municipality of Athens, will be accommodated with priority. Those wishing to be accommodated must undergo a medical examination for infectious diseases. "The selection process will begin tomorrow and it is going to be very difficult. Every day we receive calls from people who have no job and are in danger of becoming homeless."

It is expected that the number of the people sheltered in this block will be 65 to 70. Following the major response to the initiative, the owners of three more buildings and several flats have expressed their willingness to provide them for housing homeless people. Vera Messini states that the repair needs have already been specified and the purpose of the organisation is, by Christmas, to accommodate in them more people who need a home.

"As I do not want the people who will be accommodated to enter the house and isolate themselves, we have used two rooms on the ground floor to avoid that. We have turned one of the rooms into a kitchen where the women will take turns to cook for all the residents of the block every day. The goal is for them to meet each other, to communicate with each other, to be interested in each other. In the other room we have put sofas, TV sets, radio sets, bookcases, a table at which the children can play, thus turning it into a meeting place where they will be able to spend time together." The sessions with volunteer psychologists which, at least initially, will be organized every week, will be held in the same room. Two of the men will take turns to clean the rooms, to take care that everything is fine and to guard the premises.

The social services of the municipality and representatives of the organization will monitor the life in the block on a daily basis.

The municipality will provide the people with food and will cover the monthly electricity and water costs of the block. The organisation is now accepting donations of durable goods from a supermarket chain.

Vera Messini states that the stories of two of her customers whom she had supported for more than a year prompted the idea to her. "Both are very dynamic women, divorced, with children, who have been left without work. I was helping them for free because they had no money. One day, without knowing each other, the two of them came to me with the news that they had been chased out of their homes. That night I decided that I must find a way to help them. The women in question are already in a very good condition. One has found a job and the other has solved her financial problems too. However, their stories have given me the idea of taking action in connection with homeless people."

In the beginning, friends and acquaintances responded to her call for support. "Now we have many candidates and we are planning to broaden the composition of the board. Each of its members will take on a particular issue with which he or she is familiar and experienced. Moreover, every day we receive many calls from people who donate furniture, utensils and everything a home needs. Others, from architects, engineers, carpenters, plumbers to teachers who want to help the children, just want to be volunteers. Everyone wants to help in his or her own way and that is the most important thing for me. From the outset, our goal has been to turn to the people around us. For years we had been interested just in ourselves but we did not feel good. It was a kind of trap, we did not even greet each other, and we had lost contact with each other. Therefore, I think that we have to come closer to each other and deal with everything together during this difficult time."


Tags: SocietyHomelessSocial blockHumane peopleVera Messini
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