A new underclass has emerged in Greece. A recession that began with the global financial downturn in 2008, but which has worsened dramatically as a result of EU and IMF-dictated austerity in the past two years, has left 20,000 Greeks without a roof over their heads, according to social workers and non-governmental organizations.
In a nation where joblessness is now more than 20 percent, with no family untouched by it, the sight of people sleeping on pavements and park benches, in metro stations and shopping arcades, doorways and cars, is the most visible sign yet of an economy in freefall. More than 10,000 people have been decanted on to the streets of Athens, home to the vast majority of Greece’s 11 million population. The government has just announced emergency aid for the destitute and the Greek Orthodox Church has revealed it is feeding 250,000 people a day. </br></br> “Before the crisis, homelessness wasn’t visible in Greek society and was very low compared with other EU countries,” said Ada Alamanou, Klimaka’s spokesperson. “But in the last few years it has increased by 25 percent.” “We call them the ‘new homeless’ because it is a rise that can be attributed solely to economic reasons,” she said. “They are not people who have psychological problems or are suffering from drug and alcohol abuse. They are people who haven’t been able to pay off their credit cards and mortgages. The crisis is hitting the middle class,” she said. Even before Greece’s debt drama, a fifth of its population lived below the poverty line. Now more than a third can be considered officially impoverished, according to the European statistics agency eurostat.