Pictures From A Greek Soup Kitchen

While we mock and ridicule the corrupt and often times purposefully obtuse Greek politicians, we often ignore the human cost in the equation (and so does the rest of the world). Unfortunately this is becoming an ever greater issue for a country that is rapidly devolving to sub-3rd world status. Because while we have previously discussed the miserable conditions for a country where ever more people are sliding out of the middle class and into poverty status, in reality it is far worse. Spiegel has profiled the new Misery in Athens where "aid workers and soup kitchens in Athens are struggling to provide for the city's "new poor." Since the economic crisis has taken hold, poverty has taken hold among Greece's middle class. And suicide rates have nearly doubled." Just like in the US, those in misery are growing exponentially, but the last thing anyone needs is a reminder of their existence. Yet perhaps they should, because when the Bastille moment hits, the spark to overthrow tyranny, especially that masking under the guise of democracy, will come precisely from the slums of the impoverished and disenfranchised, from those who have nothing left to lose. In Greece, with 28% of the population living "at risk of poverty or social exclusion" this moment may arrive any second.

Spiegel's report from an Athens soup kitchen must be read by all who think things like these no longer exist in modern EU countries:

If this crisis has reached Piraeus, then it's done a good job of hiding itself. Even on this cold February night, the luxury cars are lined up outside the chic, waterfront fish restaurants in this port suburb of Athens. But Leonidas Koutikas knows where to look. Not even 50 meters off the main promenade, around two corners, misery is everywhere. Koutikas finds a family of five living behind a tangled tent that has been attached to the wall of an apartment building.


Koutikas and his colleagues from the aid organization Klimaka are expected. They hand out their care packages here every night. "Each day the list of those in need gets longer," Koutikas says. He speaks from experience. Until recently, the 48-year-old was sleeping on the streets himself.


Athens has always had a problem with homelessness, like any other major city. But the financial and debt crises have led poverty to slowly but surely grow out of control here. In 2011, there were 20 percent more registered homeless people than the year before. Depending on the season, that number can be as high as 25,000. The soup kitchens in Athens are complaining of record demand, with 15 percent more people in need of free meals.


As yet, there are no reliable estimates as to the numbers of the "new poor," because the appropriate studies are lacking. Families can also mitigate the severity of many financial crashes. Those who have lost their jobs or their homes find accommodations with relatives before they ever make it into official statistics. That is especially true of the youngest victims of the financial crisis. "But with the government's many new austerity measures, along with the tax burdens, it is questionable how long the families can continue doing that," says Stamatogiannopoulou.


What is clear is that in 2010, almost 28 percent of Greeks, or 3.03 million people, lived at risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to numbers released last week by the EU statistical agency Eurostat. With the recession only having deepened since, it seems likely that the number of poor Greeks rose in 2011.

where personal tragedies...

Manos, who would prefer not to give his last name, is among the Greek poor. The man, in his mid-50's, is one of dozens of people to come to the Aghia Zoni church on a recent morning. "There are always more," says Father Immanuel, who has organized meals for the poor for 20 years. "Up until one or two years ago, we knew every face here. Today things are much different," he says.


The people in the church's courtyard are waiting for the cook Georgia to finally open the door. She has been at work in her kitchen in the church's basement for hours. When she opens the heavy steel door, there is a great rush to get in. Manos, too, gets noodle soup and bread. As he is eating, he tells a common story of losing his apartment and his job. He was born in lower-middle class Kypseli, an Athens neighborhood, and now he is sleeping in the cold on park benches. "I am a good salesman, honestly," he says. "I can sell anything." He then asks his German guest for his email address, and a few hours later he sends his resume with the request to pass it on. He hasn't given up.

And surging suicides...

The psychologist Eleni Bekiari knows what dark thoughts the crisis and its consequences have brought to Athenians. She staffs Klimaka's telephone number "1018." It is a 24-hour suicide hotline, and its statistics are clear. In 2010, there were about 2,500 calls made to the number. In 2011, there were twice as many. "Most of those who call us are women," she says. "On the other hand, it's usually the men who end up taking their lives."


Greece traditionally has one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe, but the increase has been dramatic. Since the beginning of the crisis, the suicide rate has almost doubled. In 2011, there were almost six suicides per 100,000 citizens. When the callers to the suicide hotline are asked for their reasons for suicidal thoughts, Bekiari says, they often answer with two words: the crisis.

...give the best grade for the 10 year failed experiment at a forced currency union and Keynesian lunacy taken to the nth degree.