The Athens Solidarity Center (ASC) operates as a central hub for civil society organizations in Greece to implement their individual projects, while at the same time providing a space for these organizations to collaborate, co-design programs and jointly execute actions that help address poverty alleviation and social integration for marginalized and vulnerable populations. As ASC continues to operate and grow, it will incorporate lessons learned through innovative approaches, in order to remain a best practice example for future evidence-based policy reform.
The Athens Solidarity Center (ASC) opened its doors in December 2014. It is located on the 2nd floor of a historic building in Athens that has been fully renovated and restored by SolidarityNow for this purpose. The Center has an “open door” policy, meaning it is accessible to all people regardless of nationality, religion, ethnic origin or social status.
The first phase of the Athens Solidarity Center was implemented in partnership with the Municipality of Athens and civil society organizations, including PRAKSIS, ARSIS, Network for Children’s Rights and Together for Children, with the financial support of the European Economic Area Grants (EEA Grants). This collaboration provided free primary healthcare services, legal aid and counseling, employment services to assist with job acquisition and labor market reentry, and a comprehensive service system for mothers and children (Day Center for Children, the 11525 Helpline and a counseling center).
In September 2015, the Greek Asylum Service began its operations at the Center, with a specific focus on cases of vulnerable persons.
After two years of operation, ASC entered its second phase. In this new period, services were adjusted and expanded in order to best address the evolving social challenges, shaped by the parallel crises in Greece – the socioeconomic hardship and the influx of refugees and migrants.
Building on its successful experience, this reconfiguration offers an improved and more comprehensive set of services to refugees, migrants and Greeks who are in need, such as:
- Central Social Service: provides social protection services, promote and safeguard inalienable human rights and secure living, through a series of actions in co-operation with other organisations.
- Psychological support: Individual Counseling and Psychotherapy, Empowerment, Inclusion and Personal Development Groups, Family and Conflict Counseling.
- Legal support: It covers legal counseling, mediation, and selected court representation.
- Help Line 11525 and Family, Children and Adolescent Counseling Center (through the Network for Children’s Rights): Line 11525 & the Together for the Child Counseling Center provide services regarding psychological support, guidance and awareness towards children, parents and teachers. Individual and family sessions, parent groups and psycho-educational seminars for the family and the children, Counseling for children, parents and educators on issues such as: mental health of children and adolescents, domestic violence, parent-child relationships, divorce management etc
- Child friendly places (via the the Children’s Rights Network) Individual and group pedagogical / creative programs for children, Socialization and learning support groups, Recreational events, Greek and English lessons for parents, Support counseling for parents and children from 3 Up to 12 years old, Loan library
- Employability Program (through PRAKSIS): Job consulting services, online job search with the help of specialized consultants, team workshops, seminars and networking activities to strengthen the potential of the unemployed people from vulnerable groups to join the labor market.
- Medical services through PRAKSIS
- Special Services: Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy (through the Babel Day Center), Perinatal care (through “Fenareti)
- Asylum Support Services: The Asylum Service at the Athens Solidarity Center operates on appointments fixed from the headquarters of the Asylum Service. Priority is given to vulnerable groups, with particular emphasis on the service and support of unaccompanied minors
- Excursions and cultural visits, on-campus educational programs
Athens Solidarity Center was established through Open Society Foundations and EEA Grants – Norway financial support (EEAGR08.02), in cooperation with the Municipality of Athens until 30.04.2016.
Since May 1st 2016, ASC has been financed by SolidarityNow and Open Society Foundations (OSF/OSIFE). Moreover, since November 1st 2016, complementary services provided by the ASC are funded by EaSI ( Employment and Social Innovation) in the context of “Employment enhancement and Social services integration in Athens Municipality (ESTI@)” program.