“Invisible Souls” : The harsh reality in the dark streets of Athens

After a very difficult and grotesque year, I was able to go to Greece for holidays in August but also to finally see my family and friends again. It ended up being an unsettling and bizarre summer holiday season. It was because of the incredibly high temperatures that made it difficult to simply breathe. It was because of the nightmarish wildfires burning across the country. It was because of the horror and the pain I saw many people experience, after losing their homes, their farms, their fields, their olive trees, their livestock, their entire existence.
But then, the experience I had with the Steps team during a short visit in Athens, it was something that really marked me. What I saw and what I heard from Tasos, Tatiana and Kostas filled my mind and soul with many positive and as many negative thoughts and feelings.
Since I started working as a Pea, I have seen and experienced first hand many really difficult and overwhelming situations.
Though what I saw and experienced, with the Steps team, on the streets of the city I grew up in, on a Saturday evening, was like being punched repeatedly in the stomach.

Men, women, boys, girls, transgender people, all trying to survive any way they can on the filthy streets of central Athens. Many, in order to support themselves, are forced to prostitute themselves in the sex market in the city centre. Equally many of them are users of either heroin or a drug substance called Sissa (which’s basic ingredient is methamphetamine, with additives such as battery acid, engine oil, shampoo and salt. It’s notably abused by many homeless people in Athens, and causes dangerous side effects such as insomnia, delusions, heart attacks, and violent tendencies).Among them are many, many refugees and migrants, mostly undocumented and with no care from the state or any other official organization (there are even children living under these conditions).
The Steps people told me that they know some of the drug addicted prostitutes since they first came to Greece as teenagers and had to live on the streets without documents. In the meantime they have come of age and their situation has not only not changed, but on the contrary has become much worse.
I saw people only skin and bones, standing or lying somewhere and just breathing with no energy or interest to come and eat something or take any of the items the team was distributing.
I saw battered, beaten girls who when I smiled at them some looked at me suspiciously, others approached us hesitantly to ask if I was a doctor and could help them.
I saw the places frequented by minors selling sexual services, and around them many perverted middle-aged and old men staring at the youngsters and approaching them like vultures when they attack their victims.
I saw how a girl was kicked and punched in the face by a young man who was in a state of frenzy because of Sissa. We could not stop it from happening. When I made a move to intervene, the team stopped me and told me that besides being dangerous, it’s not appropriate for us on the outside to interfere in their world with our own rules and codes of communication.
The world and life on the streets is cruel, violent and inhumane. For most of the so called „socially integrated people” this world, the “street world” is misunderstood. It causes them fear and aversion, and many choose to either ignore it or at worst, vilify it.
This is why I believe the work of teams like Steps is necessary and important. It is indeed a great achievement of Steps that all these people, who live in such dangerous environments and miserable conditions, trust Steps and let them reach their world. They allow the team to offer help when and where it is needed or they come to Steps themselves because they know they will be treated with humanity, respect and friendliness, and not with pity, contempt, fear and aversion.
And I’m very pleased that my own team, Three Peas, recognizes Steps’ efforts and has chosen to work with them and support these extraordinary efforts in any possible way.
Dear friends from Steps, all of us from Three Peas thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the good you do and wish you courage and strength!!!