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Down and out in Athens: Putting faces on Greece's economic crisis

Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Alexandros, a 42-year-old from Serres in northern Greece, sits in the abandoned car he lives in, at the port of Piraeus near Athens on April 10, 2013. Alexandros owned a plant shop in Athens until 2010 and he became homeless soon after he was forced to close the shop.

Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Marialena, a 42-year-old homeless AIDS sufferer and former drug addict who is on a methadone rehabilitation program, sleeps under a bridge in central Athens on May 13, 2013.

Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Marialena pushes away her boyfriend Dimitrios who is trying to clean up her self-inflicted wounds, under a bridge in central Athens on May 15, 2013. Dimitrios, 51, was a dancer for a famous Greek folk dancing troupe until he lost his job three years ago and became homeless.

By Yannis Behrakis, Reuters

Marialena’s tears ran down her face onto the dirty mattress where she and her boyfriend Dimitrios have been sleeping day in, day out, for over a year, under a bridge in one of Athens’ most run-down neighborhoods.

Marialena, 42, is a homeless AIDS patient and a former drug addict on a methadone rehab program.

Athens is full of sad stories like hers – of once ordinary people with a job and family who have found themselves on the fringes of society after the country’s economic crisis began in 2009. Up until a few years ago, homelessness was relatively unusual in this country of close family ties, but nowadays stories like Marialena’s are increasingly common.

Editor's note: Photos made available June 6, 2013.

Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Clothes hang on a line in an abandoned warehouse in the central vegetable market in Athens on Jan. 17, 2013.

Since the debt crisis erupted in 2009, hundreds of thousands of Greeks have lost their jobs and the unemployment rate in the country reached 26.8 percent in March, new figures show. Klimaka, a nongovernmental organization, estimated there were around 20,000 homeless in Greece in 2012

Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Tareq, a 46-year-old unemployed painter, is reflected in a mirror in the shed where he lives at an abandoned factory in central Athens on May 30, 2013. Tareq, a Syrian refugee, who lived in Greece during the 1990s, returned to Syria, but fled back to Greece in 2012, to escape the violence there.

Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

A man waits to receive food outside Klimaka, a charity that works with the homeless, in Athens on Feb. 27, 2013.

Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Giorgos, 50, sits with his belongings under a bridge, where he lives with a group of other homeless people, in central Athens on May 25, 2013. Giorgos was forced to close down the billiard hall he owned in 2006 and spent time in prison for not paying his social security debts.

Yannis Behrakis / Reuters

Michael, 36-year-old and unemployed, poses by an abandoned open-air cinema in central Athens on Feb. 8, 2013. Michael worked as a hotel clerk for over fifteen years but when the hotel closed he was unable to find work and in late 2011 became homeless. Two months later he was diagnosed with lymph node and thyroid cancer. He now lives outside a church.

Read full story on Reuters' Photographers Blog

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