The Integration House: Housing for Ukrainian Refugees in Athens
With the conflict in Ukraine now in its second year, assisting refugees has become a daily concern. Europe and the rest of the free world have been overwhelmed by the needs of Ukrainians who have been forced to leave their homeland due to a conflict that was foisted upon them.
In addition to the absolute necessities of life, housing has been a major concern for many displaced refugees who have left Ukraine to escape the ravages of the situation. Even though the need has been extensive some of Greater Europe Mission’s partners have been hard at work, doing everything within their ability to meet the housing needs of Ukrainian refugees.
The Exarchia church in Athens, one of GEM partners, has now finished the remodeling project of five apartments in the lower level of the church to house Ukrainian refugees. They continue to provide short term shelter for needy families.
To provide emergency housing to refugees, the church had the vision for what it is calling “The Integration House.” By renovating the church with lower-level apartments, the church can house Ukrainian families for up to six months—or even longer if necessary.
The renovations of the apartments were concluded by the end of this January and the congregation even had a special service to celebrate the completion of the Integration House.
A project of this nature requires vision as well as human and material resources. Renovations at the church have been completed in conjunction with Ukrainian pastors in contact with needy families, along with recruiting volunteers from the church to oversee and run the project. Ukrainian pastor Vitaliy Fomin, who moved to Athens last year at the start of the conflict, has assisted the church in finding Ukrainian families who can integrate quickly and benefit the most from housing assistance.
Pastor Vitaliy is now well-connected with several churches in Athens and has been able to visit and help Ukrainian refugee programs in Athens. In this way he has been able to meet several families in urgent need of housing. Leaders of the Exarchia church remarked, “The cooperation with Vitaliy has been great for our project, so far. By February of this year, other pastors from Ukraine have been able to visit Athens and stay for two months in order to help with our project.”
During the past few months, the church has also initiated a food bank to provide immediate care for the refugees.
The vision of the church is not just to provide short-term needs of refugees, worthy as that is, but also to get the church community involved in running the house project.
As Greater Europe Mission continues to partner with the Exarchia church and others like it, two main areas of need to be met are the provision of funds to run the house and hiring part-time help to assist in overseeing the project.
Please pray for the continued work of the Exarchia church and that they would have more resources to provide short- and perhaps long-term help for Ukrainian families in need.
About the author:
Jesse Northcutt has served with GEM since 1983. In 2023, Jesse and his wife Joyce retired from GEM and continue to live and serve in Ireland.