Homeless Magazine Launched In Crisis-Hit Athens

Category: Media & Culture / Feb 27, 2013 3:22PM EDT
Forty-three year old George Christou, homeless and unemployed for the last two and half years, handed out a new magazine on the streets of Athens on Wednesday (February 27) specifically created to give jobs to the homeless. Called "Shedia" meaning "life raft" in Greek, the magazine is part of an initiative around the world known as "street papers" - newspapers and magazines created and sold by the homeless to give them a form of employment. And the initiative couldn't be more needed as Greece's homelessness and unemployment continue to skyrocket due to the debt crisis. Christou, a sound technician and programmer who lost his job when the music studio where he worked was shut down, said he welcomed the "Shedia" project. "When you have been unemployed for quite a long time you know, it's like putting yourself back to action, getting your life in your own hands, and stepping on earth with your own legs," said Christou. Since losing his job, Christou said he had not been able to find employment and had to give up his rented apartment, finding himself on the street without food or a roof to sleep under. He also said he had often used drugs and suffered from illnesses. "It's like a mountain of problems, you know, and the last year it's really hard to cope with but this is the first move, you know, towards back to life," he said. Within an hour Christou had managed to sell 13 copies of the magazine, boosting his spirits. He said that the sales of the magazine helped show people another side of the homeless. "In Greece of crisis most of the people are depressed so someone who has the kind of problems that I have and smiling it's like something very optimistic, isn't it?," said Christou. Shedia magazines sell for three euro, with the homeless person keeping 1.50 euro for each copy sold. Greek magazine creator Christos Alafantis, a former journalist, said he had been mulling over the idea of Shedia for several years but that it had become more urgent than ever when the financial crisis hit. Alafantis said he didn't know what the response would be at first, as the magazine was a new initiative in Greece and unknown to many. But upon its launch about 120 homeless people were already participating in its sales. "It's very easy to feel isolated, depressed, ostracized maybe, stigmatized, but by being involved in this activity you actually do remain an active, energetic part of what we call this normal society," said Alafantis, adding also that as Greece's financial crisis pushed many to become homeless for the first time in their lives, the sale of the magazine made many feel they were still working citizens. Supporting the magazine is the The International Network of Street Papers. Founded in 1994 it supports and develops over 100 street papers, in 40 countries and in 24 languages on all five continents. The Greek magazine was published through sponsors, and the articles are written by 40 volunteer journalists. The homeless are invited to train and learn how to contribute. Alafantis said that in light of the current situation in the country, the articles focus on homeless issues but also on positive stories. Non-governmental organizations estimate homelessness in Greece has increased by 25 to 30 percent since 2009 when the financial crisis began. Unemployment is at 27 percent. "Every single day I will see a new homeless person you know making his own little nest, house, whatever you may call it, under a car beside a car, whatever, so it is an issue and it is getting worse and worse every day and it's going to get worse, everybody knows that," said Alafantis. He added that although the state is trying to cope with assisting the increasing homelessness, more should be done. (Video Source: Reuters)