Homelessness is a significant social issue in Greece, which was exacerbated by the Greek Financial Crisis which started in 2009, during which an estimated 111,000 Greek companies filed for bankruptcy. There is currently no accurate record of how many Athenians are experiencing homelessness, but the official unemployment rate hit almost 28% during the economic crisis that devastated the country over the last few years, with youth unemployment especially surpassing 50%.
Shedia – meaning “raft” in Greek – is a not-for-profit organization that works to employ and empower people experiencing homelessness and social exclusion in Greece. They have a vast number of programs including a soccer team, an upcycling/art project, a street paper, an educational social tour of Athens led by homeless guides, and a café-bar-restaurant in the historical center of the Greek capital called Shedia Home. Through their programs, 150 people experiencing homelessness and social exclusion have been provided with the opportunity, through working and not begging, to earn an income to cover some of their most basic needs, on a daily basis, while 20 full-time employment positions have been created in the recently launched Shedia Home.
Planeterra partnered with Shedia Home and connected the cafe with G Adventures, to be included on itineraries visiting in Athens. Travellers will get to have a drink at the cafe and enjoy an educational talk from one of Shedia’s guides, all of whom are experiencing homelessness themselves. Guides give unparalleled insight into what life is like for individuals who are experiencing homelessness and/or social exclusion, and how Shedia’s programs are combatting the crisis.
A regular customer base to the brand new Shedia Home, which opened in May 2019, is providing valuable sustainable income for Shedia’s programs. Travellers also have the opportunity to book an Invisible Tour with Shedia, a tour of Athens which “makes the invisible, visible” conducted by a guide experiencing homelessness. Travellers can purchase products from Shedia’s art project, which trains and employs individuals experiencing homelessness. Look above you when you visit the cafe – the art installment hanging from the ceiling represents the 43 individuals who now have homes thanks to their connection with Shedia.