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We Asked the Homeless of Athens About the Greek Referendum and Possible Bankruptcy

"Whatever happens, I think this bridge I live under will fill up fast and none of us will be getting out of here any time soon."

af Melpomeni Maragidou. Images by Christos Sarris
02 juli 2015, 2:00pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece

According to official figures released by the Greek Deputy Health Minister Theano Fotiou, there are 17,729 homeless living in the Attica region. Given the events of the last few days – endless talk of the nation going broke, cash machine queues, the mounting social divide – we decided to talk to those who've suffered from the crisis more than most: the homeless.

I met Dimitris under a bridge on the outskirts of Athens. Over the last few years, this particular bridge has acted as a shelter for many who've found themselves on the streets.

Before ending up there himself, Dimitris toured the world as a dancer. He's the first to admit that he's thought about jumping off the very same bridge more than a few times. He says it's a bit quieter out here and he prefers it to the city centre, although it doesn't make him feel any safer. When I asked him what he thinks about the upcoming referendum, he's lost all faith in politicians. He's aware of what the country is going through but has no intention of voting.

Dimitris

"I know what's going on, I'm not out of synch with the world around me. Being homeless doesn't mean that you get cut off from everything that's going on. It's a terrible situation. I've known for quite a while that this was where we were heading."

"I don't want to vote on Sunday. Whether we have the drachma or the euro won't change anything. Who am I supposed to vote for? If I could, I'd vote for my own future, of course I would. I would vote for the future of my children. But to vote for those few sitting on all the money? Those are the guys that have had it the easiest during the crisis. I won't be blackmailed into a 'Yes' or 'No' vote. I don't think it'll be too long before there's more and more homeless people sleeping next to me. People who probably thought they were," he said.

As I stood chatting to him, I watched Marilena get out of her bed and walk over to her cats, to feed them. She sat down at a little table in a corner and turned her radio on to listen to the news.

Marilena

"I'm from Crete so I can't travel over there to vote. I would if I could. I would say 'Yes' to the European Union so we wouldn't end up all alone. But I'd say no to the euro – I'd like us to have our own currency. The euro is such a hard currency, I've never liked it. I've always preferred the drachma. I wanted Tspiras to negotiate, since I thought that something good could have come from that. I don't know what goes on behind closed doors, but I'm really scared of the divide in our country."

"Personally, I don't have anything to lose, except my ID and passport and the few pieces of clothing that I have left. That's the lot – I have nothing else. I do think of other people, though. I think about this bridge filling up with all the other people that will inevitably turn it into their home. Whatever happens, whether it's a 'Yes' or a 'No', I think this bridge will fill up and none of us will be getting out of here any time soon."

Georgia

A few kilometres away from the bridge, I met Georgia. She sat by a traffic light, waiting for whatever spare change she could beg off of passing drivers. Like many homeless in the city centre, Georgia lives in cardboard boxes. She hasn't heard anything about what's been going on over the last few days.

"I haven't heard the news. I've seen people queuing up outside banks but I didn't hear anything about bankruptcy. Nobody told me. It hasn't changed my life, anyway. My life is here, at this traffic light all day, then I find somewhere to sleep and then I'm back here again. I haven't eaten in three days. I've got psoriasis but I can't get it seen to as I have no money and no health coverage."

"This is what we've come to – there's no health care. There's no money coming in from anywhere. I've been struggling for small change for 10 days now, but people aren't giving anything away. I guess they got nothing to spare. All I get is pennies. I'm not going to vote in the referendum but I do wish we could go back to the drachma. I have nothing to lose."