The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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Homelessness: YMCA received 520 cases since January; 106 were supported and taken in

Giulia Magri Thursday, 8 October 2020, 13:58 Last update: about 4 years ago

Between January and September 2020, the YMCA shelter has received 520 cases, and has seen an increase in foreigners, especially immigrants ending up homeless, Anthony Camilleri, its CEO has told The Malta Independent.

“In 2019 we had 886 cases. Between January and September 2020, we received 520 cases, out of which we supported 106. Whilst we have seen a slight decrease, this does not mean that individuals at risk of poverty decreased. Unfortunately, due to restrictions and health procedures, we have lost several cases that could have been helped.”


Earlier in August, the NSO published a survey showing that 17.1%, which is equivalent to 82,758 people are at risk of poverty. That means that is the number of people who are living in households with an income below the at-risk-poverty-line. The survey is designed to collect detailed information on household characteristics, labour market, education, household income, material deprivation and social exclusion. 4,376 households were approached for the interview, out of which 3,785 completed the survey.

This newsroom contacted Camilleri asking what his reactions are to the survey and what the situation at YMCA has been like.

Camilleri highlighted that the recent survey shows the reality that YMCA has been speaking about for many years and how homelessness is an end result of many social factors, poverty being one of them. “We have always said that this social issue is a hidden one in Malta and our definition includes those living in inadequate housing or poor standard living. If we are to go by this definition shall we say that 17.1% of the Maltese population is at risk of facing ‘homelessness’?”

He pointed out that there has been a decrease in the rental market lately due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but rent has never been properly marketed to ensure all types of families can afford renting. He said that, currently, there are individuals who cannot afford renting property, let alone buying one. “This tradition of buying property before getting married has changed in the past years. We know families that do not afford buying property and most of them do not afford to have rent increasing every six months to extremities of around €750 minimum for one bedroom apartment,” said Camilleri.

Salaries are also another matter which needs to be properly addressed. “We still have cases of individuals being paid under the minimum wage, and it is high time that the general public understands that they are selling their time to their employers and should not accept less than what they believe their time costs.”

When asked what the government should focus on when it comes to poverty in Malta, especially due to the coronavirus pandemic, Camilleri explained that COVID-19 has brought a huge change and difficulty to meet individuals in need. “First and foremost, it brought about a huge barrier that is still being felt between first liners and those requesting help. We have seen a huge decrease in those seeking help not because it is not needed but because of the restrictions imposed.”

He said that one lesson that YMCA has learnt is that much more must be done to outreach to those families in need. “On 23 March of this year, we launched our Loneliness Response Line, and since then we had over 800 calls and messages with people who are at risk. Together with YMCA we have launched support groups where now we are meeting those individuals at risk socially and helping them accordingly.”

Earlier this year, this newsroom had reported that the YMCA had set up a quarantine room which is purposely kept empty in case there are any COVID-19 cases at the shelter. Camilleri said that at ‘Dar Niki Cassar’, a set of quarantine rooms had been set up which, means that they could accept less individuals. “We have launched a second shelter by the name of ‘Y Communal House’ that nowadays is full, and we have 14 individuals living there.”

When asked how many people are currently seeking shelter with YMCA recently, he said that the shelter has a capacity of 48 beds. “After the quarantine period referral cases have increased and we are receiving an average of four cases per week.”

Camilleri also pointed out that, both last year and this year, the YMCA has had more foreign cases both legal and irregular immigrants.  The YMCA has also seen an increase in cases that are not seeking help and sleeping roofless in different localities in Malta.  “We have a service for roofless cases, ‘Y Visible’ which has helped over 33 individuals who were sleeping rough this year. It is imperative to say that those individuals without any address are sometimes refused to be assisted, and we have had these cases too.”


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