By Bejay Browne
PAPHOS has been the worst hit by the crisis and was the first to feel its effects.
There are a number of small religious and local community groups and other associations who are doing all they can to help, but needy families seem most reliant on the Orthodox church, the municipality and Solidarity charity to meet their basic needs.
George Savvides of the Greek Orthodox Bishopric of Paphos said that the church is feeding more than 2,500 people in Paphos once a month; they also provide some families with financial aid.
“Most of the people we are helping come to us regularly for help. The welfare department can’t cope and so they are referring them to us. The number is growing every day.”
They come with all of the relevant paperwork, he says, and they are carefully checked. Savvides says that the food handed out is mostly canned goods, milk, pasta, rice, sugar and salt.
A spokeswoman for the Paphos municipality social welfare department said that the municipality is spending around 10,000 euros a month to help to feed more than 450 needy families in the area. They top this up with donations from businesses as well as from the public
“We are currently helping 457 families and this is getting harder as donations are getting less every month,” she said.
She added that the municipality is now also helping some families living on the outskirts of Paphos, such as Konia village, every Friday.
The spokeswoman says the welfare department has to be strict with the criteria and paperwork needed to get help from them.
“We are helping any nationality, you cannot separate the provision of food, people are people,” she said.
Food parcels containing basic items are handed out to those on the list every Friday. Where possible, they will also add baby food, nappies, shampoo and washing powder, she said.
To be eligible, each couple must earn less than 450 euros per person, per month and 150 euros is also allowed for every child.
“So if a couple with a child needs help, they must be earning less then 1,050 euros to be eligible,” she said. All of the relevant paperwork must be supplied to get assistance.”
She added that by next year, a soup kitchen will be imperative for Paphos, although operational costs will be high.
Solidarity charity in Paphos, which is feeding up to 1,000 needy families, is stockpiling food, with the aim of reopening when stores have reached enough to keep families going for one month.
The charity was forced to close its doors for the first time this week as they ran out of food. Pavlina Patsalou, who heads up the registered charity, along with Paphos councilor George Sofokleous, said they would open only when they have ample supplies.
“We can’t open and then close again. We mustn’t let the people down and have a similar situation to what happed this week.”
Emotions ran high on a street outside the headquarters of the charity when 100 needy families, including mothers with babies were turned away after volunteers ran out of food. Many were so desperate for food that they became hysterical, and were wailing and crying in the street when they found out there was nothing left to give.
The closure of the charity Solidarity has now left 1,000 families with no means finding food as they fall outside municipal boundaries and are not covered by state aid.