UNHCR Urban Shelter Program

The Accommodation Program of Caritas Hellas and Caritas Athens in partnership with CRS is part of the nationwide UNHCR Urban Shelter Program titled “ESTIA” which provides safe accommodation and social services to the most vulnerable of refugees in Greece. Initially the Program targeted mainly people eligible for relocation, but since September 2017 it changed to include asylum seekers waiting to be granted refugee status. ESTIA is funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid. Caritas Hellas is operating shelters and apartments in Athens and Thessaloniki urban area and has hosted 1,903 beneficiaries during 2017, providing at the same time psychososial support and integrational activities.

Neos Kosmos Community Shelter

In the district of Neos Kosmos, a neighbourhood in Athens with a long-standing history of accepting migrant population, Caritas Hellas runs a community shelter project in collaboration with the Armenian Catholic Ordinariate. The key component of the project’s approach has been a shift of paradigm from standardized and individualized accommodation assistance to the creation and operation of a community model. In the premises, beneficiaries cover all their basic needs and have access to a wide range of services (e.g. family counselling, education and all social spot services). Beneficiaries can also get involved in a variety of activities (sport, socialization, cultural, recreational, etc.). Different activities for children, adults and families are conducted in different spots of the community (Armenian Caritas & Listening Center, Neos Kosmos Social House, Neos Kosmos Social Spot and Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII). Most importantly beneficiaries are highly encouraged to interact with the local community and Caritas volunteers and to participate in the realization of joint actions. As a result, a strong feeling of belonging is created to the beneficiaries who feel welcomed, safe and empowered in their new home. The premises have a capacity to accommodate 70 people and over the course of 2017 more than 400 people (mostly refugees but also vulnerable Greeks) have been hosted.

Vulnerable Refugee Safe Accommodation in the island of Lesvos

In 2015, as the refugee crisis was intensifying and the only available accommodation for the refugees were the then emerging state or municipal “transit” camps, Caritas Hellas with the financial support of Caritas Switzerland, launched a project to provide safe accommodation and protection to the most vulnerable of the refugees focusing on single parents, pregnant women and families with little children in the island of Lesvos. The Project continued till 2017 and the beginning of the nationwide ESTIA Accommodation Program. During 2017, 372 asylum seekers and recognised refugees found shelter and regained their dignity by having access to good nourishment, psychososial support and empowering activities. High priority was given to activities aiming at the progressive inclusion of the 180 hosted children to the Greek education system. Classes of Greek, Math, Culture, Geography were conducted and accompanied by empowering and recreational activities at the Child Friendly Space. More than half of the hosted adult population improved their language skills by attending weekly Greek and English classes and participated in a wide variety of activities from weekly football games to sewing and jewellery workshops. Intercultural interaction with the local community was also a high priority and has been promoted through Cultural Cooking Exchange events on and off premises, field trips and family visits to theatre performances and local school concerts.