The economic crisis in Greece has hit many people very hard. According to EU's statistical office Eurostat, every third person in the country of 10.7 million is at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
Through the EEA Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway have allocated around €4.3 million for emergency measures to help the poor and the homeless in Athens.
Free health care and medication, food vouchers, assistance when applying for jobs, legal aid and day care for children are some of the services that are offered at the new centre located close to the central station in the Greek capital.
The Solidarity House is run by the Municipality of Athens and the Open Society Foundation and their partners and supported by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the Greek 'Solidarity and Social Inclusion' programme.
Speaking ahead of the inauguration in March 2015, the Norwegian Minister for EEA and EU Affairs, Vidar Helgesen said:
"The situation for the most vulnerable in Greece is difficult. This centre shows how the public sector and civil society can work together to make a difference in peoples lives. Our goals is that this cooperation can be a model for similar projects.”
Although the inauguration was held in March, the Solidarity Centre had then been open a few months already and the interest shows the great need. Already in March, around 4000 people had received free health care, 3500 families have received food vouchers and the helpline has answered more than 4700 phone calls.
In the current funding period, Greece receives a total of €63.4 million from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants.
This article was first published when the Centre was inagurated in March 2015 and reposted when the Norwegian Minister for EEA and EU Affairs, Vidar Helgesen, visited the Centre in August 2015.
The story of the solidarity centre recently featured in the Kathimerini English Edition - a daily newspaper published in Athens. Read more.