UNHCR Urban Accommodation Program

The Accommodation Program of Caritas Hellas and Caritas Athens in partnership with CRS is part of the nationwide Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation (ESTIA) program, implemented by UNHCR, and provides dignified and safe urban accommodation and cash assistance to asylum seekers in Athens and Thessaloniki.

Urban accommodation provides a normal daily life to asylum seekers, while cash assistance restores dignity, as participants are empowered to make choices according to their needs. The main objective of the program is to promote self-reliance as well as to promote social cohesion within the urban communities.

Furthermore Caritas Hellas provides comprehensive services through Social Service HUBs, mainly psycho-social support through direct case management and referrals to available services, support for school enrollment and participation of children in remedial tutoring classes, guidance on acquisition of legal and administrative documents in order for participants to access public services and legal employment as well as receive state benefits, accompaniment to services when necessary, integration assistance by developing integration plans and referring participants to integrational and empowerment activities such as Greek language courses, educational trainings, adolescent or women groups and sports, as well as community outreach events in neighborhoods, providing the opportunity to hosted population and local community to connect.

Caritas Hellas operates 318 apartments in Attica and Thessaloniki urban area, with total capacity of 1614 persons. Since September 2016 and until the end of 2019, has hosted 3594 persons, providing at the same time psychosocial support, access to public services and education, and activities towards the economic and social integration in Greece. ESTIA is funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union.

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, since 2017, has run a versatile community shelter project in collaboration with the Armenian Catholic Ordinariate and Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII. The project offers a variety of services to a number of asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and vulnerable Greek and their families. 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, guided by the principle of multiculturalism.

Neos Kosmos Social House project provides accommodation and support for vulnerable families and individuals and covers their basic needs within the sheltering premises. An informal educational programme to support children who attend local public schools has also been developed. Additionally, indoor and outdoor recreational and cultural activities are implemented on regular basis with the involvement of the local community. In this way, the vulnerable hosted population is 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 during their stay. The shelter has a capacity to accommodate 50 people and since 2017 more than 500 people 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.