Around 13,000 people are homeless in Athens, a charity said on Thursday, three weeks before a crucial general election that will determine recession-hit Greece's economic future.
In the Greek capital of over four million, around 11,500 squat in abandoned buildings and another 1,500 live on the streets, the Praksis organization said.
"Most of these 1,500 are unemployed or drug addicts left behind after the shutdown of rehabilitation centers for lack of funds," Praksis chairman Tzanetos Antypas told AFP.
Among the 11,500 squatters, "most of them are undocumented migrants, piled up in groups of 15 or 20 in dilapidated flats in the city center," he said.
Caught in a fifth straight year of recession, Greece is struggling to apply a tough austerity overhaul in return for EU-IMF loans.
Salaries and pensions have been slashed by up to 40 percent in the last two years, and over a million people are officially unemployed, a fifth of the workforce.
A general election on May 6 was marked by a strong anti-austerity backlash and a repeat ballot on June 17 is expected to deliver a similar message.
Accurate statistics on the number of Greece's homeless are hard to come by.
Antypas said that calculations are often "approximate or exaggerated," pointing to an estimate of 25,000 homeless reported last year.
Homelessness in Greece was previously confined to drug addicts and migrants but the crisis has changed that profile, the charity head said.
"We see people aged 40-55, mainly men who have lost their jobs or are unable to pay their rent or support their families," Antypas said.
Formed in 2004, Praksis operates two health centers for the homeless in Athens and Thessaloniki, and a center for child trafficking victims in Patras.
The charity, which has a staff of 120 and 580 volunteers, plans to open another three centers in Athens and the port of Piraeus thanks to a donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
The foundation, created by one of Greece's leading ship-owning families, this week donated 10.2 million euros ($12.9 million) to Greek non-government organizations fighting poverty, Kathimerini daily said.