Where: Athens, Greece
Who: Levente Polyak
With whom: The City of Athens
How: Curing the Limbo is an Urban Innovative Actions project in Athens supported by Levente Polyak, focusing on empowering refugees and migrants who find themselves in a state of limbo, with limited options. The project aims to make housing more affordable for refugees, create ways of activating the refugee population and provide incentives and motivation to assist them in becoming a part of Athenian society.
Curing the Limbo utilizes the vibrant civil society scene of Athens to assist refugees and the local unemployed to overcome a state of inertia. The program is based on a circular “gift” system, which addresses both the problem of housing as well as that of inactivity.
Through Curing the Limbo and its collaboration with local initiatives, refugees receive affordable living spaces from the city’s available housing stock and in return, they work for the public benefit – supporting the needs of the local community and participating in citizen-led activities that improve quality of life in Athenian neighborhoods. Beneficiaries receive on-the-job training supervised by the University of Athens, which includes language learning, psycho-social support, “street law” knowledge and other basic social and soft skills.
13.000 refugees are currently estimated to be living in the City of Athens.
20.12% of the City of Athens’ population is without a job (Greece’s unemployment rate is at 20.6%, the highest unemployment rate in the EU).
30,85% of Athens’ total housing/apartment stock remains vacant.
2.900 citizen led activities have been connected to the city’s civil society platform “synAthina”. Within the last 4 years, 360 active community groups have been submitting their solutions to the local city needs.
At the end of the three-year period, program beneficiaries will be given the possibility to afford housing, access to a network of active and engaged local people, and even the possibility of employment related to their newly acquired skills. 375 people are expected to be housed through 75 affordable housing units and more than 200 people will attend Greek language courses and ICT courses. It is however expected that many more people will benefit from the program’s cyclical exchange rationale. Seed funding and community work will help program beneficiaries interact with over 100 local stakeholders and citizens’ led initiatives, leaving an undeniable impact on the city.
Athens holds a special place in regards to acting as a transitional landmass for refugees. While a majority continue on their journey into the heartlands of Europe, tens of thousands have opted to stay behind and join Greek society.
The project serves as a pilot umbrella organization that can help connect the needs of those receiving aid and assistance with civil initiatives ready to provide that assistance. What’s more, it’s an extensive case study on how refugees and the underprivileged can be assisted in moving from apathy to motivation, creating strong bonds with the local communities, acquiring new skills, solving local problems together with active citizens, and improving the quality of life in the neighborhoods while improving their self-confidence and self-respect -all qualities essential for their development as responsible people and citizens in society.
Curing the Limbo Soil is a UIA initiative. Levente Polyak supports the network and the development of the project as an expert.
For more information on the project and how Eutropian has acted as a consultant in aiding civil initiatives on programs promoting integration, housing and education, please reach out to him directly.