Interview with Emfasis Foundation on BeConscious

“Emfasis: A bridge between society and socially excluded people”

We thank Be Concious and Angelos Stergios,for his interest and assistance as we collected the material of the interview, especially given the current pandemic, which has seriously affected the majority of Emfasis beneficiaries. We hope to be able to be together in a shift, so that what we further illustrate the reality of streetwork. Below is the interview:

The idea

“Emfasis was created as the result of the vision of a group of Greeks in the Diaspora to provide an immediate and effective way out of the serious social challenges created by the economic crisis in our country. After many months of research, it was found that it was not enough to wait for people to come to us for support, but to approach these people first with respect and dignity, and jointly plan the steps they need to take to improve their living conditions. This methodology stems from the principles of social streetwork.”

The team

“The Emfasis team is made up of people of all ages and specialties. We employ the knowledge and experience of each member of the team in order to best meet the needs both at the organizational level and at the level of actions / field. Each new member of the team initially receives a general training regarding the subject and in a second stage special training depending on the specific role he / she undertakes to carry out.

The basic principles of the team are discretion, respect, and communication among all those who want to participate. The team is distinguished by clear roles, and everyone is involved to the degree and level they desire and feel safe.

The group is called to get in touch with people in street condition, as well as with passers-by, with workers in places where there are homeless people or people in street condition and with neighborhoods that are marginalized. For these reasons we are called to play a very delicate role – a link between all of the above. ”

So far, what have you achieved?

“From the day we started, we felt that we had created a bridge of communication between civil society and the socially excluded people, which was non-existent. Those who felt forgotten had the opportunity to get in touch with our teams almost every day. Areas stigmatized by social tension and division spoke to us about the positive effect of our presence, as we absorbed a social shock that was previously pervasive in the streets. Since 2013, more than ten thousand (10,000) people in visible and invisible homelessness have received psychosocial, material and humanitarian support as appropriate. The organization gave the opportunity to 45 young social scientists to start their careers on their subject. We implemented 19 relief programs that sprang from the testimonies and demands of the people themselves. 200,000 hours of volunteer work have been invested in mapping the needs and psychosocial support of the socially vulnerable and excluded, while more than 500,000 items for survival have been provided.”

How do you comment on the economic situation of our country and which age group seems to suffer the most?

“Our commentary is based solely on the testimonies of the people we support or come in contact with. The age group that will be hit hard seems to be 45 and over, mainly men, as the labor market is oriented towards younger people who can be more easily trained and cope with changes to the nature of the workforce. People who have lost their jobs, even temporarily, remain seriously concerned and find it very difficult to turn to a new career direction, while being burdened with negative social stigmas, as they are unable to manage the feeling of failure to provide for their loved ones. ”

A day of a steetworker in the organization…

“Every day is special! There are specific processes to follow in the shift. Each shift is a unique experience. Each time, requests are recorded and then shared with the team for efficient implementation and realization of requests. In emergencies, there are many times when we can call EKAB or other government agencies to report and settle the incident. In addition, there are individual meetings with beneficiaries and, finally, a shift assessment is completed.”

The most “powerful” experiences…

An important experience is realizing the importance of the words “I am hungry” and “I am afraid”, as well as their daily repetition. As you hear these words, you then can only make immediate decisions to support people with whatever tools and means you have.

The Emfasis team always follows safety and hygiene rules, without exception. At the start of the pandemic, the observance of the safety distance of 2 meters was implemented, as well. This imposition of distance restricted our ability to connect with our beneficiaries by preventing any phsyical contact. For the sake of everyone’s health, however, we adapted immediately.

The period of restrictive measures coincided with Holy Week. The intense loneliness that people experienced on the street was evident, as the beneficiaries asked us to be close to them. Many spoke to us for the first time about their childhood, about memories of Easter holidays when they were still with their loved ones, about the difficulties they have gone through.

Finally, very strong images were created of the confrontations of the authorities with the people in a state of street-living in places of great congestion. Many beneficiaries changed places and found themselves ‘hidden’ behind abandoned buildings, bushes and underpasses.”

Finally, how much has streetwork been affected during the coronavirus period?

“The methodology of streetwork was significantly influenced by the conditions imposed by the pandemic. Within the framework of streetwork is the mobilization and empowerment of the vulnerable population in street living conditions, something that requires physical presence and a personalized approach. In addition, it requires cooperation with services, which had significantly reduced benefits due to temporary suspensions. Therefore, we proceeded to make adjustments:

 

  • Psychological support/empowerment through daily telephone communication with the beneficiaries.
  • Daily communication with services for their benefits in the period of health crisis.
  • Providing beneficiaries’ information on hygiene rules, protection measures, hostels and the provision of services as well as continuous information and training of volunteers on the new conditions.
  • Procurement of protection items (masks, gloves, etc.).
  • Contactless deliveries of survival items to people in vulnerable groups due to age or inability to move, due to lack of documents or mobility problems.
  • Emergency shifts for contactless and mass supply of basic necessities (ready-made food, sanitary ware, etc.). “

 

How can we contribute to the teaam?

“Due to the multilevel action of the organization, the ways of contribution and participation are various. Initially, anyone can participate voluntarily. Each of our volunteers is thoroughly trained depending on the role they undertake. In addition, there may be a contribution to actions aimed at financially supporting our programs but also assistance in placing donation boxes and posters of the organization in companies. It is also very important to respond to ads/needs that are posted periodically on our communication channels (Facebook/Instagram) while anyone who wants to help can offer survival items, according to the needs of each season.”

 

For you conscious means…

“An active citizen who is informed, cross-examines the validity of the information they receive, is interested in social events and maintains their empathy and critical thinking. They are polite and refrain from adopting harmful stereotypes. If they cannot contribute actively, they shall provide indirect support to initiatives that promote a civil society that is governed by respect and practical solidarity.”

We thank Emfasis for the daily life lesson they offer on the streets.

Learn more about their work:  https://www.emfasisfoundation.org/

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