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To mark New Year’s Day, a free meal was organised for the homeless and poor in Athens – although soup kitchens in Greece have been busy since the euro crisis set in.

The country’s unemployment rate has hit a record 26 percent, and austerity is forcing more and more people to come for handouts.

“This is not the first nor the second meal I’ve had to come to here for. I’ve had many other meals, and it seems as if I’ll continue to need them because I don’t see the situation getting better and I have no hope. Everybody has abandoned us,” said one man who has worked less than two months in the last three years.

More than a third of the population now live below the poverty line, according to official estimates, so services like this are invaluable.

“The economic crisis has not reached it peak yet so we wait for more people to come. But I think that the most difficult period has passed,” said Athens mayor George Kaminis.

City officials say 600 people came for Tuesday’s free meal in Athens.

Several schemes across the country run by charities and the church are also providing free clothing, medicine and sometimes shelter.

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