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Human cost to Europe's economic climate

 

Across Europe, people have taken to the streets to protest the austerity measures governments are taking to stave off economic collapse.

But beyond the chants and the tear gas, there is quiet agony.

Britain, just into a double-dip recession with more than 8 percent unemployment, is increasingly grappling with hunger.

Paul Dillon is homeless. He had been riding the momentum of the real estate boom, until the 2008 crisis hit and his construction jobs dried up. Fox News caught up with him outside the Hammersmith and Fulham Food Bank, run by the Trussell Trust.

"In the three years, it's kind of gone from having plenty of money to having absolutely no money, you know. It's a very steep decline, very quick decline, as well."  Dillon went on, “It virtually dried up without you noticing, you know.You suddenly go from going out for a meal, going to the pub, having a few beers, meeting your friends, and suddenly you realize, just a second, I don’t have enough money for rent, never mind going out for a drink.”

Dillon gets food from a food bank.

And he's not alone.

One new food bank opens in Britain each week to meet the demand. Executive Chairman of the Trussell Trust Chris Mould told Fox News, “Getting them out into the neighborhoods is vital, because there are people going without food now up and down the country who need our help."

Some of those who rely on food banks actually have jobs, but still can’t afford food.

Mould says, “We see people, day in, day out, week in, week out, right across the country, who have been referred because they have nowhere else to turn. They’ve got high bills for rent, their incomes have been dropping, people have lost their jobs, it’s hard to get more work. The welfare system is paying less than it used to for many sections of society, so the buying power of the money you do get just doesn’t go far enough. Food prices have been inflating above the general rate of inflation -- particularly basic foods.”

Daphine Aikens, a volunteer who runs the Hammersmith and Fulham Food Bank, said it is not a grocery store, but rather it is there to stave off crises.

"An 11-year-old child turned up at school and said we don't have any food at home and I haven’t eaten and can you help us. So the social worker, through the school, phoned up and said can you help?"

The good part of this story, is that Trussell Trust relies on donations, and people who can, have been extremely generous. Aikens said, “We had a lady turn up about a month ago, and her car boot (trunk) was full of food, and I said, ‘well, who are you and where does this come from?’ She said, ‘I’m not going to give you my name but, I received my government grant for winter fuel heating, which is 214 pounds ($338), and I decided to donate it to charity because I don’t need it.’”

And on mainland Europe, in Italy, entering a third quarter of negative GDP, a wave of austerity suicides shocks the nation. Effigies of the dead were recently hung off a bridge in Rome.

Barely a week goes by without news of someone taking his life because he can't support his family anymore.

One man set himself on fire here, outside a tax office.

Two weeks ago, the director of a power plant was shot in the leg, an apparent anarchist attack, leaving Italians to worry about a new wave of economic terror, similar to what that country suffered decades ago. Italian security officials have increased security at 14,000 potential targets and assigned bodyguards to 550 individuals.

So as people worry about the possible ramifications of Greece, and maybe other countries, leaving the euro, many across this First World continent just worry about getting through the week.  

Amy Kellogg currently serves as a Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent based in the London bureau. She joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999 as a Moscow-based correspondent. Follow her on Twitter: @kellogglondon