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).
After two years of operation, ASC entered its second phase. Today, after building on its successful experience and being accordingly reconfigured, it 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.
- Employment program: Job counseling services, online job search with the help of specialized consultants, group workshops, seminars and networking activities (aimed at strengthening the potential of the unemployed from vulnerable groups to join the job market).
- 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, excursions and cultural visits, on-campus educational programs
- 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
- Special Services: Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy (through the Babel Day Center)
- Perinatal care (through “Fenareti)
- Asylum Support Services: In September 2015, the Greek Asylum Service began its operations at the Center, with a specific focus on cases of vulnerable persons. 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
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.
From November 1st 2016 till December 31st 2017, complementary services provided by the ASC were funded by EaSI (Employment and Social Innovation) in the context of “Employment enhancement and Social services integration in Athens Municipality (ESTI@)” program.
Since May 1st 2016, ASC has been financed by SolidarityNow and Open Society Foundations (OSF/OSIFE).