The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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TMID Editorial: Tackling homelessness

Monday, 20 November 2023, 17:19 Last update: about 8 months ago

Homelessness is not as visible in Malta as it is in some other European countries, but this does not mean that there aren’t people living such a reality.

There are those among us who struggle to make ends meet and we must ensure that they are given all the support they need to cope and be able to stand on their own two feet.

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Ian Galea, the manager of Dar il-Hena Foundation, told The Malta Independent on Sunday that half of the Maltese homeless people end up without a roof over their heads due to financial issuesOther reasons leading to homelessness, he said, are addiction, domestic violence, mental health issues and broken relationships. 

Dar il-Hena Foundation runs three shelters: Dar Papa Franġisku, Dar Maria Dolores (which is exclusive for women) and a long-term residential shelter in San Ġwann. 

With regards to financial struggles, inflation is currently on the rise, which is a problem in itself. The Cost of Living Adjustment mechanism is there to help employees keep their spending power as prices rise. There are also a number of initiatives to help out those who are struggling. Here, one can mention the additional COLA mechanism that had been introduced by the government as one example. The government does have measures to help families cope with the current situation. But there are some who still cannot cope. This is where more dedicated support services come in.

The support systems people need to make it through tough times must be in place to help them get back on their feet. Thankfully in Malta, there are a number of homes and programmes that offer support, and the aforementioned homes are just some such examples. Dar Papa Franġisku, for instance, is an emergency shelter. 

When it comes to drug addiction, there are also programmes out there to help people overcome such problems. Caritas, for instance, does great work in terms of rehabilitation services. 

Galea told this newsroom that, with regards to homeless people facing financial issues, these issues are split into various types and cases. At times, these sudden constraints arise due to cases of unemployment (and poor retention of employment), other times because a relationship ends, causing the two partners to go their separate ways and therefore, decreasing their financial means, and in some cases, people simply struggle to keep up with the (increasing) cost of living. For the latter cases, “their wage would serve them to the nearest cent”, so instead of heading to Dar Papa Franġisku just for shelter, they typically use the food service on offer to enjoy free meals. 

Galea admitted that for clients suffering from addiction and mental health problems, “it can be difficult to help clients get to the next step.” There are programmes out there that help, however Galea seems to be saying that more is needed. He suggested that there is not just one type of solution, though this could come in the form of a programme, through the organisation of self-help groups or through some initiative(s) organised by local NGOs. 

As previously mentioned, there are organisations that offer support to people with drug problems, but if more programmes are needed, then perhaps this is where the government can step in.

Galea also described the sentiment within the sector that “recruitment is a problem”, citing that it may be difficult to fill up vacancies because “the wages do not reflect the amount of work necessary to be done, making it less competitive to businesses – especially since most of these services are run by NGOs, apart from FSWS”. 

With regards to the recruitment problem, perhaps government intervention here is needed, to help the NGOs in terms of the wages they are able to offer for such services. Helping people who have fallen on tough times stay off the streets must always be a priority. These organisations provide an essential service and the country must ensure that they are able to run without problem, and that there is enough bed space available for all those who end up homeless.

 

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