Drapetsona, Greece – Stavros Manikas, who has lived in one of the poorest suburbs of Piraeus for more than 35 years, scoffs when asked if Greece’s decade-long crisis is almost over.
A rawboned 53-year-old, the bus driver and union activist’s shoulder-length grey hair shows streaks of blonde and black. Manikas sits cross-legged on his billowy couch and carefully rolls a cigarette on his lap.
“The crisis hit the area so hard that no one throws out food any more,” he tells Al Jazeera. “That’s why you don’t even see people digging in dumpsters here.”
Asked how the crisis impacted his own life, Manikas looks up and says sternly: “Everything changed.”
Although Drapestona has long been a poor and institutionally-deprived area, the crisis hit the cash-strapped residents harder than middle-class and comparably well-off neighbourhoods in Athens and Piraeus.
Speaking alongside left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in April, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared that Greece would “be a normal country” by the end of the summer.
In Drapetsona’s narrow, coiling alleyways and cluttered streets, few people see cause for hope as the European Union and the Greek government promise the country is only months away from exiting its prolonged economic crisis.
Deserted factories and shuttered small businesses are testament to the jobs that left the area. The windows and doors of many homes are boarded up.
Meanwhile, homelessness, drug use and prostitution have grown increasingly visible, Manikas says.
With a son at university and another completing his mandatory military