8 May 2015

"They are fighting. Shedia's vendors never give up"

Shedia, Greece’s first street paper, launched two years ago in Athens. Today, the publication is still going strong, and supports around 160 vendors, 17 of whom are now in permanet housing. But one third of Greeks still live below the poverty line and the list of people looking to Shedia for help continues to grow. 

Editor Chris Alefantis speaks about the current situation in Greece, the vital work Shedia does and its incredible vendors.

Shedia came about from the desire to support those who had been most seriously affected by the economic and financial crisis. One could also say that Shedia is a result of the rage surrounding injustices which have happened to the vast majority of Greek workers and the middle class. We had to do something to help those affected. The same goes for the thousands of people across the country who have set up networks of solidarity and who are helping in every possible way. These are grass roots answers to a bigger problem.

If you look at the figures, it becomes clear that not much has changed over the past five years. The unemployment rate continues to be around about 26%, and the youth unemployment rate is 50%. People have been job seeking for years without success. We are especially concerned about those who are aged 45 and over. Their job prospects are particularly bad.

The queues outside soup kitchens are continuing to grow. Hundreds of thousands of people don't have health insurance anymore. How can we allow this to go on? The number of long-term unemployed people is so great, and that's dreadful. If you walk around Athens, you don't see many people smiling.

On the other hand, we support each other in everyday life. In an interview with us, the famous Greek author Vassilis Alexakis said, "We have no other option than to be optimistic." We should try that and continue to fight for a better future, both individually and collectively. This is also the stance taken in our street paper vendor meetings.

99% of our vendors are victims of the financial crisis. They had a job, a place to live, a family. They lost their jobs, then a few months later they lost their homes, and then they lost everything. Architects, former publishers, tradesmen or shop owners work at Shedia, as do people who have worked in unskilled labour. They were the first victims of the financial crisis. Their stories are those of completely normal people. On the one hand it's sad, and on the other their determination to get their old life back is impressive. They are fighting. Shedia's vendors never give up.

We also support our street paper vendors in their search for jobs and accommodation. Seventeen formerly homeless street paper vendors already have their own small flat paid for using the income that comes from selling street papers. We are delighted when it works. For us, this is a common victory. It's our readers who make this happen when they buy a street paper.

Our dream is that Shedia becomes superfluous, that all of our vendors find "regular" employment, through which they can earn their living. We also dream that we will reach the point where we will no longer need a street paper. We all look forward and work hard towards a better future. It's hard work, but we'll manage to do it. As Vassilis Alexakis says, "We have no other option than to be optimistic."

This post is based on an interview by Bastian Pütter originally published in German street paper Bodo. It was made available to INSP members in German and English via our News Service and has been republished widely across our network.