The Malta Independent 25 June 2024, Tuesday
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Homelessness: ‘Prime Minister - if your kids were in this situation, would you look the other way?'

Giulia Magri Sunday, 31 March 2019, 11:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

If any readers would like to help Jane in her time of need, they can do so confidentially or otherwise, by contacting our offices on 21345888 or by email on [email protected]

While Malta enjoys an ever-increasing GDP thanks to large and expanding industries, many have indicated that a portion of the population is at risk of poverty and social exclusion as a result of this fast-paced increase. The European Commission's Malta Country Report indicated that the increased prices in the house market, and the wage gap, can lead to issues of affordability and availability of social housing. Unfortunately, Malta is already facing a poverty crisis.

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According to the most recent Eurostat data published, the number of people living at risk of poverty and social exclusion has experienced a sharp drop since 2013, but the data does not always reflect the reality of the situation. Back in October 2018 during a parliamentary session, it was noted that 27 people were reported sleeping outdoors between 2013 and last August. The real figure is believed to be much higher than what has been reported.

As evidence of this, there is increasing pressure on homeless shelters such as the YMCA, Dar Papa Frangisku and Dar Maria Dolores, which are struggling with the number of people seeking shelter as they cannot afford a roof over their head.

As a nation, people are well aware that homelessness is an issue as more and more people are seen sleeping on benches, in their cars or in public areas, yet the actual figure of how many people are homeless is difficult to quantify.

Living in a room with no electricity, water or a sense of security

The Malta Independent on Sunday was invited by Jane Doe*, a 43-year-old who is currently living in an agricultural storeroom outside a field. She lives there exposed to the elements, with no electricity or running water, the growing mould stains on the rubble walls just above her bed (made of two single mattresses and a couple of thin sheets) is just another indicator of how brutally cold last winter was.

"When we had that weekend of hail and storms, I could not leave or go anywhere since I have no car. So I just stayed in and waited."

During the interview, Jane had left the door open to let in the bit of sunshine a morning of rain.

"Days like this are good, as the rain fills up the water tanks which I can use to wash and cook with. I know this is dangerous because one day after drinking that water I was very ill and spent the next few days sick in bed.

"No house, no job, no car, no money, I would not wish this situation on anyone, but I know there are others like me."

She explained that she had not always been in this situation and that she used to have a home and job security, and able to provide for her mother and teenage daughter.

"I am a people person, I love to work, laugh and be surrounded by people, before I ended up in this situation I was always on the go from one place to another, but now I cannot do anything but sit and see what will happen to me."

She recounted that when her father was alive, he had borrowed money to build a house but had died of a heart attack two years later. He had not paid paying the man, who then asked Jane for the money. "My father had borrowed over €75,000, which I did not have, so I had to sell the house and pay back the money, and it was then that our troubles began."

She said her mother's health began to deteriorate after her father passed away, and that she had to take care of her mother and daughter while trying to find a place to live.

"We were offered to live in a place and pay €400 rent without any contract. When I asked for a contract he told me the rent would go up from €400 to €700, which I could not afford, so I agreed to have no contract." Jane, her mother and daughter stayed there for two years, after which the owner told her she had to move out as he planned to sell the property. Without any contract or documentation, Jane could not go to the police, and in less than 24 hours, her family packed their belongings and left without knowing where to go.

"I packed everything we owned in a car and headed for Cirkewwa, to catch the ferry and see if we could find anything cheaper in Gozo. As we waited in queue, we saw happy people, excited to go to Gozo, while I worried because we had no idea where we would end up." When they arrived in Gozo Jane called a friend who lived there and Jane rented her apartment for €500, where they stayed for a year. While moving from home to home, Jane began to notice that her own health started suffering. "I was admitted to hospital, where I was told that I have arrhythmia and a very fast irregular heartbeat, which affects me mentally but also my performance at work. Regardless of this, it did not stop me from going to work every day."

When her friend told her that she and her family could not stay at the flat any longer, Jane was left with no choice but to pack up once more and see where they could go. "An old friend of my father offered my family a place to stay, and out of respect for my late father, he let us stay there for free, paying just for water and electricity."

Asked to leave work twice without any reason

While Jane and her family were constantly on the move and her health became a growing cause for concern, she continued working, until she was told she could no longer work for the particular company. "It was not even my fault, the company had a spot check, and it came out that we were signing in badly, although it was the management who had told us to do so. What really hurts is that I was the one who had to leave."

She explained that she continued to try and find work, and came down to Malta to have better opportunities. That is when she moved into the storeroom outside a field. "By then I no longer had a car, but I would walk to the closest bus stop, and catch a bus to work. Although I found it difficult to work because of my heart condition, I was always determined to do my best and show just how much I wanted to work." She tried to give her manager a doctor's certificate to show her state of health, but all she faced was threats. "He told me that if I brought in a doctor's note, he would label me as unfit for work, which would affect my future employment."

She recalled that when she was unwell one day and called in sick and returned next day to collect her roster, she did not have one. "I was called by the management and informed that I was no longer needed. When I asked why I was no longer needed, I was told that I did not need any valid reason since I was on probation. I cried so much that day, as the company was fully aware of the situation I was in, but turned its back on me and made me leave."

As Jane does not work, she has received sporadic help from kind strangers or neighbours. "I have left my daughter and mother in Gozo and they try to live on her pension. Whenever I can, I try to visit them once a fortnight to visit them. It is difficult to know that they are in Gozo suffering while I am here." She has tried social housing, but they are all full and she informed us that what she really wishes is to be employed once more. "I do not wish for the Government to give me a house, but I want to work, a person is entitled to work and would help me to be able to support myself and my family."

She said she does not have any credit on her phone, so she waits for her daughter or mother to call. To charge her Nokia phone, it usually takes her an hour or two to walk to the Airport where she can charge it. "My biggest fear is if I ever have an accident, what would I do? How can I call someone and explain where I am? And what if my battery died?"

How can the government say we have a booming economy when people sleep in the streets?

"I wish to ask Joseph Muscat, what would he do if one of his own twins was in such a desperate situation? Would he leave her?" Jane questions how the government can let people live this way, and has learnt from her experience that the world is full of greed. "I have been told to leave my job twice after they became aware of my current state, this alone only shows me that there are many greedy people in this world. We all begin and end the same way, why am I not deserving of a job and income? It breaks my heart to know that I am capable of working, but cannot get a job. All I can do is pray and leave my destiny in God's hands."

* A fictitious name has been to protect the individual's identity

If any readers would like to help Jane in her time of need, they can do so confidentially or otherwise, by contacting our offices on 21345888 or by email on [email protected]


 

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