Greece’s New Middle Class Homeless Hold a Degree and a… Laptop

    Just a few days short of Christmas, thousands line up in front of food banks and resort to rifling through rubbish bins. Anger, misery, frustration and fear are evident in every little corner of Athens. Athenians look at the new cast of homeless in their work suits and once polished shoes begging for money, and feel pure terror that the next wave of homeless will include them, their brother or their neighbor. Senior members of the population compare the situation to  scenes of the Second World War and the German occupation of the country. According to data released by Greece’s National Confederation for Commerce, nine Greeks out of ten have cancelled all expenditure on clothing while one Greek in four says that their money will not cover the purchase of basic food items, let alone Christmas gifts and celebrations.

    Homeless in suits with laptops and degrees  from Voula and … Kifisia

    Greece’s former middle class is rapidly vanishing and is giving its place to a new Greek underclass, the so called “νεόπτωχοι”-newly poor people. This new underclass is comprised of jobless, homeless and hopeless Greeks, who up to a couple of years ago had a job, a home, and hope for a better future.  This new social class is visible throughout Athens.  They sleep in park benches and wander around from welfare office to welfare office for a free meal or some new clothes. Athens’ municipality and NGOs estimate the homeless increase within a year is approximately 25 percent.

    But these are no ordinary homeless people. With an average age of 47, 11% of Greece’s homeless have a university degree (!) and 23.5% hold a high school diploma, while only 9.3% are illiterate. The new Greek homeless class members have laptops and iPhones, remnants of their “old” lives. “They come to us in suits with their laptops in hand. These citizens a couple of months ago had ordinary lives. They had a job, a home and car,” says Nikitas Kanakis, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Athens. Counselors from the Department of Homeless Services describe a similar situation. “We even have homeless from suburbs like Kifisia and Voula! They come  here with their laptops and expensive smart phones they once used for their work, shocked and depressed”.

    These homeless are not drug addicts or immigrants or people who were always deprived. They are former teachers, doctors, economists, secretaries – the list goes on.  Their homelessness is not a result of poor backgrounds or a lack of skills and education; but rather, a result of the “crisis” that continues to play out on front page news, and has destroyed their lives for no reason.

    Working and Homeless

    Even those with a full time job could end up homeless without some sort of financial support from friends and family.  NGOs speak of a new generation of homeless who cannot even cover their basic needs, with a monthly salary of just 500 euro. At the same time, the average Greek consumer is now forced to pay the third-highest VAT rate in Europe, the third-highest social insurance contributions and the second-highest fuel taxes. No wonder the new homeless class continues to rapidly expand, along with provisional street homes made of wooden beams and plastic sheets, for shelter from the winter.

    Tax Evaders are Crisis-Free

    With an over bloated, corrupted, and ridiculously slow government administration, tax evaders have little to fear. In fact, tax evaders are probably the only Greek cast that doesn’t fear becoming homeless. They can still be seen throughout Athens in their Porsche Cayennes, at their favorite” bouzoukia” and designer clothes shops as if nothing has changed.  It is this injustice that incites the people of Greece to anger, and crushes the usually-cheery Christmas atmosphere in Athens at this time of year.


    • Anonymous

      It is very sad to see Greece and its people suffer…Its just wrong unfortunately…
      Public servants are corrupt and only look after their own pockets.They should all be terminated and rehired based on merit..Systems need to be implemented and enforced..
      Unfortunately the people who do not pay taxes are the ones who prosper in Greece..
      No land titles office exists in Greece and houses are onsold and their is nothing someone can do if this happens to you..What an absolute failure and disaster Greece is???
      Sad but true…unfortunately…

    • Mike Raft

      If Germany thinks that euro would be better without Greece, then she should accept that the euro became strong, passing the dollar, while Greece was with it.

    • Anonymous

      Mike Raft I don’t know whether the euro would be better without Greece and frankly I don’t care. What concerns me and what becomes more obvious each day is that Greece and other indebted countries would probably be better off without the euro and all the EU-IMF “rescueing”.

    • Tomaras

      I live in Australia. I have dual citizenship with the Hellenic Republic of  Greece and Australia. During the post WWII years in Athens my parents migrated to Australia because they were starving. Over 30,000 people starved to death in Athens during those terrible years.

      I urge anyone facing difficulties in Greece today because of the currency and financial wars of 2008- present to consider migrating to Australia or New Zealand. My parents and their entire families came to Australia with a suit case, no education, no English, no money and with hard work  were able to establish themselves in this wonderful country. Some of the family members returned to Greece and with the money they saved in Australia were able to buy land or business and today are self sufficient even during these modern crisis. Others who migrated permanently in Australia love this country and became citizens. Having dual citizen doesn’t mean you are forced to live in one country. My family live 6 months bewteen each country, its 2012 we fly these days and it costs as little as AUD$1700 return airfare.

      Australia today is more tolerant towards migrants than our generation in the 1950-70s, it is more multicultural than any country in the EU. You will have huge ex-patriot support and the most important feature of Australia is that itis safe, its Democratic, no corruption, it has huge growth in Engineering,mining, building, infrastructure, business management, education, tourism and unemployment is a choice for those who are lazy. Anyone can find a job within a week if they really want one. It may not be of your choice, but you have to crawl before you can run.

      So come on over, even if it is for a short time, be positive and never never ever lose your motivation, ambitions and dreams. In Australia if you believe in yourself, they will come true.

      Kostas from Giannena

    • Atkenos

      I largely agree with fellow my Epirote,  Kostas from Ioannina. Australia has at least 500,000 people who admit to being born in the Hellenic nation or are the children and grandchildren of such good and hard working people. Many more do not admit their ancestry but in the main Australia today loves all of the richness of culture that our parents, grandparents and others have brought here. We speak modern ‘Greek”, have tavernas and restaurants where even Turks and Chinese love to visit for authentic Hellenic meals. We have key people in medicine, science, the arts, acting, politics, education, construction, information technology… The list is without end. Now I will not say that everything here is perfect but honest hard work in Australia will bring more financial rewards and success than the same work in Ellada. And as so many of us do, we work hard, save our money and then travel back to visit the most amazing nation on earth.