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No hope in Athens soup kitchens

Fri, May 25, 2012

In front of a rundown building in central Athens, four men and a young woman pull a huge pot and bottle of gas from the trunk of a car and set them up on the pavement. Oblivious to their crumbling surroundings, they fill the pot with water and bring it to a simmer by the side of a busy road, stirring in pasta to feed those driven to poverty by Greece’s debt crisis.

They are stepping in where the politicians have failed, they say, even though they, like 1 in 5 Greeks and half of all the nation’s young people, are unemployed.

Every day, through an informal group they call “O Allos Anthropos,” or The Fellow Man, they feed all comers – mostly immigrants
and others without jobs – thanks to donations, whether from a pensioner handing over half a loaf or market vendors stumping up unsold vegetables.

A few blocks away, workers are building a stage to hold campaign rallies for the May 6 elections. The pasta crew shake their heads in scorn.

“Those who are running in the election will just be wasting money to make campaign posters. They should be ashamed of themselves,” said Constantinos Polychronopoulos, 47, a jobless marketing man in ablack apron, as he added zucchinis and onions to the mix.

“They have never gone hungry in their lives.”

Like many of the people they feed, he lost his job in a deep recession, now into its fifth year, that has claimed hundreds of thousands of jobs. Many in this new army of the destitute, angry with the tax hikes and wage cuts that were a condition of the international bailout that saved the country from bankruptcy, are likely to abstain or back small parties opposed to austerity measures.

“The new poor will vote in great anger and disappointment for smaller or protest parties,” said Costas Panagopoulos, at ALCO pollsters. “It’s a vote against the system.”

The election will decide who steers the nation through the tough times after an emergency government secured the rescue funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, but it is not expected to change much.

Parties who object to the bailout also mostly object to each other, so there is no prospect of them coming together to rule. That leaves a renewal of the fragile coalition between the conservative New Democracy party and PASOK, the socialists, as the only
viable option. It is likely to hold only a weak majority, while the growing ranks of the disaffected split their vote between as many as 10 opposition parties.

Written by: Ingrid Melander & Daphne Papadopoulou

StreetWise magazine is proud to provide WorldWise content republished by the International Network of Street Papers’ independent Street News Service. This service features stories submitted by the 100+ street papers around the world in an effort to raise awareness for homelessness and bring a voice to the underserved.


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