Growing Number Of Poor Put Strain On Greek Food Bank

Category: Economy / Jan 02, 2013 1:46PM EDT
As austerity measures take their toll the number of families receiving donated food supplies has doubled in the Greek port city of Patras, and hundreds more are still on a waiting list to receive rations, according to local authorities. Father of four Angelos Spiropoulos is among those on the waiting list. The 35-year-old house painter has not been able to find work for a year. He and his family now live with friends because they could not afford the rent on their house. "A year ago I had a job, we were fine, my family and I. I had rented a house. After the crisis struck, I left from the house, and thankfully a woman is letting us stay at her home and I don't have to pay rent, because with the crisis we just can't make ends meet. And thankfully there is also the food bank that helps us with food, and it will be helping us for a long time from what I can see because we are going to be out on the street," Spiropoulos said. Patras' municipality social director Theocharis Massaras made an appeal for members of the public to donate more foodstuffs. "I appeal to anyone that is listening to help the food bank. Not with money but with products, so that we can help the ever increasing requests from our citizens, those who are under the poverty line and are growing constantly," said Massaras. The Patras Municipality says a food bank set up by the church and mayor to help the destitute in the city was feeding 425 families two years ago. Now it is providing food for 1,000 families and more than 350 families or individuals are still on a waiting list to receive food rations. The municipality and church are buying the food rations from money given by donors or from their own depleted coffers. Funds from municipalities have been dented because their budgets have been cut in half. Poverty is so acute that a free pharmacy where people donate unused medicines has also been formed. Clothes are being donated for poor families. Constantina Vervitsanou, a 31 year old mother of five small children, lost her job as a contract municipal worker almost two months ago as a result of the government's drive to downsize the civil service. "I am in a really bad state, I cannot survive. My children want milk, I don't have it to give to them. I am trying to find a job but I can't find work, and at the moment I am out on the street," said Vervitsanou. Vervitsanou's husband is also unemployed. The family relies on the state for food and since they cannot afford to pay rent they have found temporary accommodation at the home of relatives. Patras, on the Peloponnese Peninsula, is one of Greece's largest cities; it is a commercial hub and one of the busiest Greek ports. Over the past years, industries have shut down, increasing the unemployment rate and the current financial crisis has exacerbated the problem. The overall unemployment in Greece has reached 26 percent, with the rate in the Peloponnese Peninsula at 20 percent. -Reuters