In August 2022, we at Wave served 1,817 hot meals, welcomed 50 new arrivals, distributed 849 clothing and hygiene items, ran 219 showers, charged 201 phones and powerbanks, and washed 83 loads of laundry.
Once again, August was another hot summer month, with temperatures reaching between 35 and 39 degrees most days.Regions across Greece experienced severe forest fires, which spread quickly due to a lack of state response. Although it did not rain much throughout the month, there were occasional downpours which led to significant flooding, turning the hilly streets in Thessaloniki into small rivers. This intense weather makes living on the streets even more challenging. We are concerned to see these extremes becoming the new norm, with global climate change ever increasing, as we saw all over Europe this summer.
Our community centre has now been open for nearly two months, after operating the food distribution for two and a half years on the streets outside our building.
NEW OPENING HOURS
With the new centre we implemented some changes to our opening hours. The centre is open every day between 13:30 – 19:30, and food distribution takes place from 17:30 – 19:00. Our shower container runs daily from 14:00 – 19:30 and the free shop which gives people access to basic clothing, shoes, sleeping bags and hygiene products is open Monday to Friday from 14:30 – 19:00, with the weekend closed.
The number of people attending our community centre throughout the day is slowly but continuously rising as more people become aware of our indoor distributions and the other services we provide. We offer people a place where they can hang out, relax and grab breakfast or lunch, along with our main evening meal. Throughout the day, people can help themselves to a variety of cereal with milk and fruit, bread with homemade dips (hummus and baba ganoush are firm favourites), accompanied with coffee or chai. This safe space is highly needed, as most of the people we serve live on the street, and their precarious living situations offer little respite.
At the beginning of August, we opened up our own barbershop, which has proved to be a big success! Inside our community centre we created a corner with a barber chair, mirror and supplies needed for a barber to offer people a fresh haircut. Besides having a few community volunteers with amazing barber skills, we’ve further discovered that within the community that we serve, there are a lot of young men who are talented barbers. We are very happy and proud to have broadened our services in this way. It’s great to see how simple things such as a fresh haircut can raise a person’s self-confidence.
Also our rooftop garden is growing well and we harvested our first vegetables. Of course, the space is not enough to get the quantity of fruit or vegetables that we can cook with for the population we serve. So for the winter, we will stick with herbs and maybe plant some garlic. This year the bed was more of an experiment to see how and if it works, and hopefully next year we will have the knowledge and implement the products more into our daily cooking.
Sadly, our solar panels, which we had installed on top of our shower container, were stolen one night. With still hot temperatures only providing cold water showers is fine for now but as soon as it gets colder we want to offer hot showers again. Therefore, we are working hard to come up with a proper solution before the winter starts. We need to find new funding for the installation, where we also want to make sure that the new panels will not be stolen again. There is a possibility to construct a metal cage around them, securing them in place. We plan to start a public fundraiser on our social media channels, which has been really succesful in the past.
At the end of August a big shipment of donations came in from Germany. Wir Packen’s An and Project ELPIDAcombined their effort to make this delivery possible. We would like to thank them for their generous support and donations. We are now able to supply the community with sleeping bags, t-shirts, trousers and shoes for the coming period. The sleeping bags are of especial importance as autumn approaches and the nights are getting more and more cold. This requires further protection, especially when there’s no access to housing.
AN UPDATE ON THE POLITICAL CONTEXT IN GREECE
As noted in the previous report, a new asylum registration system was implemented in July, whereby individuals have to fill in an application form online to obtain an appointment in Malakasa (Athens) or Diavata (Thessaloniki). Despite the platform only being published six weeks ago, people are already unable to find appointments. This raises serious concerns about the capacity of the new system, forcing more people to remain undocumented, without access to services and at risk of being apprehended by the police, detained or pushed back. This inaccessible asylum system is directly impacting our community, we have seen multiple people making daily attempts to get an appointment unsuccessfully. The last month also saw a high profile Evros islet case gain extensive media coverage across Europe. A group of 39 Syrian people were stranded in the Evros river, pushed back and forth between Greek and Turkish authorities for around one month before being taken to a reception centre by the police. This ongoing situation has drawn a lot of political attention in Greece, but the fact remains that the border, and access to international protection is becoming severely restricted. We, at Wave, are highly concerned about the implications this will have on our communities.