About the Future of Hostel WELCOMMON in Athen

Nikos Chrysogelos an „Respekt für Griechenland“/ Februar 2018

We have discused a lot with our members and friends about the future of WELCOMMON and the modification of our plan. It is true that without a support by the state or the UNHCR there is no possibity to continue this innovative center because the cost is high. We have worked hard and we will continue on working for such a community model for hosting and social inclusion of refugees. But the building is big and the cost high.

Possible alternatives for funding

The existence of WELCOMMON in the current form is possible only if there is a support by an institution which has enough sources to support us. We have contacted some big foundations in Greece like Niarchos Foundation but there is no will for supporting us, they don’t understand even the need for innovation in hosting and inclusion of refugees. We have confirmed that the government will not open a call before 2019. At the european level there are no calls for such programs although (maybe as a result of a pressure by us together with other organisations) there is a discussion for the establishment at the european level for a financial tool for innovative projects they could use social enterprises – but it will take some years!. There are many organisations and networks willing to express their support to us, but it seems very difficult to have a result in one month. I met a lot of networks and organisations in Brussels during my recent trip and they will support our campaign with a letter of support. But we can’t wait for a very quick response concerning funding. Many people haven’t realized the end of the project by the end of February and they tell us that this is not …possible. They get crazy when they realise it. But the decision by the Mynicipality and the UNHCR is final and it will not change, although they are many serious problems concerning the housing of all the refugees and many refugees deny to leave from WELCOMMON, and the situation in some appartments is worrying or very bad etc. Today Claudia Roth visited WELCOMMON and discussed not only with us but also with many of our guests (even with people they now stay in appartments). She was very excited of our community and the innovation, but obviously she can not do much more than talk to the Municipality and the head of UNHCR tomorrow.

Our plan

In brief. we have decided to continue into 2 directions:

(a)  We are now planning to turn the existed building to a touristic hostel (WELCOMMON Hostel) with a social impact approach. That means we will employee refugees and some unemployed greeks to run it. Two of the floors will host social and job integration activities for refugees, migrants and greeks. We want to improve the decoration and infrastructure of the building until the end of March or April, to buy extra infrastructure needed for such an activity and to increace the energy efficiency of the building immediately. We will try to be ready and start in April. We will also focus on workshops for social inclusion and job preparation, like energy issues, culture of food from different areas, music, upcycling etc. We are also planning 3 days per week to offer multi-ethnic cuisine and cultural events for any person interested in participating (guest in WELCOMMON Hostel or other people), to connect the visitors/tourists with groups organising mountain climbing, cycling tours, city guiding to social activities and centers, etc in order to offer more chances for jobs and integration for the refugees and greeks. We are looking for funding but there are also some friends willing to participate together with our social cooperative in the investment for social impact.

(b) We are looking for extra sources in order to be able to open a „smaller WELCOMMON“ as a social housing center for the most vulnerable, offering to them some of the social servises existed in WELCOMMON (let’s call it WELCOMMON small community center). If we are able to find sources for such a building, we will open this new center in 6 months. We will not offer food, only social and health services and they will cook themselves in their appartments. We will keep the main idea, creating an open community in one or two block of flats.

Existed activities

We will keep on doing the activities for/with children in any case and we will use the rooms / place of the 2 floors of the current building for social activities, training, forums, seminars, lessons, painting etc. Responsible for these activities will be Lizeta and she will be responisble for the daily cooperation with the volunteers. So maybe you must inform the foundation about the change of the name, Lizeta instead of Vera. We will focus on the children hosted in WELCOMMON all these months but also some other children they want to participate (already there are many participating in lessons offered by the volunteers).

The second person, starting from 1st o March, will be from our social service, Vaso Mouzaki. She is more experienced and has good mute and relationships with refugees established all this period.

(i) She will help Lizeta

(ii) she will be responsible for the training of volunteers and all the logistics

(iii) she will be responsible for the communication with the universities (she has the professional certification and she can sign as a supervisor for social workers if a univeristy needs such a certification).

We will keep the 4 axes we have discussed for the 2 positions and there is no change of the agreement you have done with the 2 foundations. If we are successful with the new application to Erasmus+ for the next period we could also hire again Georgia and Vera, but we will know it in July.

We will continue on hosting volunteers in WELCOMMON Hostel for the social activities and non formal education.

Νίκος Χρυσόγελος
Nikos Chrysogelos