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There was a time when I could not help but be affected by the sight of another human being sleeping in the street. I could not enjoy simple things like rain or snuggling into a warm bed on a cold night when I knew that others had inadequate shelter. These are some of things I remember most about living in South Africa. Things that I thought I had left behind me when I moved to Greece.

Homelessness is now a growing problem in Greece too, and all the old feelings are starting to awaken in me. But this time it is different. The problem is not caused by the mass migration of people from rural to urban areas as is the case in southern Africa but rather because the Greek crisis has collapsed the middle class and affected the poorest of the poor worst of all. No one really knows how many people are living on the streets now. The unemployment figures are also not completely accurate because they do not take into account the people who were forced to work ‘off the books’ by employers to reduce the benefits payable for each legal employee to the state pension and medical insurance.

In 2010 almost 3 million of Greece’s 11 million population were living in poverty or on the brink of poverty, which is almost a third of the population. The situation has gotten considerably worse since then. Last year alone 20 000 people were estimated to have become homeless, and with approximately 1 000 people losing their jobs every day, things can only get worse. 250 000 people already need to be fed from the soup kitchens that have sprung up in every city and town.

The situation threatens to become a humanitarian disaster. ELSTAT, the European statistical institute who issues the official poverty statistics does not even offer the facilities to measure an epidemic of homelessness. They base their figures on normal households with a roof over their head. True poverty is inconceivable to them. No one is ready to officially acknowledge the homeless of Europe, or deal with the problem.

This denial of reality can be seen nowhere as clearly as in the new income taxes that have been imposed on Greece as one of the conditions for the bailout.

Today the tv news was filled with incredulous reports of the implications of the new taxes. Implications I had not thought of before. I was too busy obsessing about the property tax to pay much attention to the fact that there is no longer a tax-free bracket for those who earn less than a certain amount.

This effectively means that the unemployed and homeless must now pay 113 euros income tax per year, or be considered tax evaders.

For the unemployed this means a further obstacle to becoming employed. Without an official stamped piece of paper from the tax office stating that your taxes are up to date one cannot even get another job should one miraculously become available. Unless one works in the ‘shadow economy’, of course…

And as for the homeless…my mind boggles. Taxing the homeless? Really?

I thought we were meant to help the homeless, not make it worse for them. Tax the homeless? Really, really?? In a few months the papers will be full of EU reports about how many Greeks have not paid their taxes and when you read that think of this man…

Unemployed Tax Evader

And this person…

Homeless Tax Evader

I think that the zombie apocalypse happened while we were asleep. Some kind of zombie virus has taken over the world and there are very few humans left. The zombie lords want to tax the homeless and unemployed…