If this crisis has reached Piraeus, then it's done a good job of hiding itself. Even on this cold February night, the luxury cars are lined up outside the chic, waterfront fish restaurants in this port suburb of Athens. But Leonidas Koutikas knows where to look. Not even 50 meters off the main promenade, around two corners, misery is everywhere. Koutikas finds a family of five living behind a tangled tent that has been attached to the wall of an apartment building.
Koutikas and his colleagues from the aid organization Klimaka are expected. They hand out their care packages here every night. "Each day the list of those in need gets longer," Koutikas says. He speaks from experience. Until recently, the 48-year-old was sleeping on the streets himself.
It's no longer just the "regulars" who are brought blankets and hot meals at night, says Effie Stamatogiannopoulou. She sits in the main offices of Klimaka, brooding over budgets and duty rosters. It was a long day, and like most of those in the over-heated room, the 46-year-old is keeping herself awake with coffee and cigarettes. She shows the day's balance sheet: 102 homeless reported to Klimaka today.
The psychologist Eleni Bekiari knows what dark thoughts the crisis and its consequences have brought to Athenians. She staffs Klimaka's telephone number "1018." It is a 24-hour suicide hotline, and its statistics are clear. In 2010, there were about 2,500 calls made to the number. In 2011, there were twice as many. "Most of those who call us are women," she says. "On the other hand, it's usually the men who end up taking their lives."
Greece traditionally has one of the lowest suicide rates in Europe, but the increase has been dramatic. Since the beginning of the crisis, the suicide rate has almost doubled. In 2011, there were almost six suicides per 100,000 citizens. When the callers to the suicide hotline are asked for their reasons for suicidal thoughts, Bekiari says, they often answer with two words: the crisis.