Building a new life: Secondhand bookstore run by homeless in Athens

June 16, 2019

Without a job and homeless Leonidas Koursoumis never gave up his dream to build a new life. He established a secondhand bookstore run exclusively by homeless people in Athens.

Relegated to the ranks of Greeks made homeless during the country’s economic crisis, one 70-year-old man reclaimed some of his past glory by taking matters into his own hands.

Leonidas Koursoumis lost his job in a publishing house in 2012 and became a homeless himself. How would give a job to an elderly man?
Despite the hardship, he never lost his dream: to build a new life and help people in the same situation as he.
While he was wandering the streets of Athens, Leonidas usually spent his time looking for books that had been discarded in trashcans, which he collected and later sold to secondhand book stalls in Athens’ flea market for a few euros. This gave him the idea to open his own secondhand bookstore, where he and the friends he met on the streets — fellow homeless people — could work and make a living.On a winter’s morning in January he woke up determined to make his idea a reality. By this point he had made a home for himself in a storeroom behind a friend’s office. He issued a call on Facebook, asking for people to donate books they didn’t want anymore. On that first day alone, more than 900 people shared his post. Soon, Greek media picked up on it and started writing about him, helping his story to go viral across the country. This generated a whole wave of people wanting to support his cause, and dozens of packages full of books, sometimes used, sometimes brand new, started arriving at his door.

“We received books from all over the country. We have approximately 50,000 books for sale right now,” he said with pride. His book bazaar found its current temporary home thanks to an anonymous donor.

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Leonidas Koursoumis’ bookstore is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. People come to buy books or to offer ones they no longer need

That first official call to donate was a huge success, as were the ones that followed. “The money we got covered renting a house for six months,” he said with a smile.

Today Leonidas has even bigger dreams: He is hopeful that he and his friends can regain part of their old lives. He wants to create a community center run by the homeless for the homeless at the new permanent spot he has found in the Tavros neighborhood, open a second bookstore. He wants to help as many homeless people as possible.

The number of homeless people in Athens has swelled dramatically in recent years. While in the very beginning of the economic crisis, about 70% foreigners and 30% Greeks were homeless, their number drastically increased in the last four years.

According to a 2017 report by FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless) about 15,000 people are without a home in the wider region of the Attica peninsula, which includes the Greek capital. The actual number though is hard to estimate, as many never ask for help. ”

Full story Deutsche Welle

Published at https://www.keeptalkinggreece.com/2019/06/16/homeless-secondhand-bookstore-koursoumis/