Over 1,500 homeless people, including 400 minors, applied for refuge at YMCA’s shelters in the past two years, a staggering figure considering how hidden Malta’s homelessness problem is.
“It’s shocking that we’re still not talking about homelessness,” YMCA’s Head of Residential Kerry Hermitage said in an interview with Lovin Daily. “Homelessness is a problem and it’s harder because it’s not visible.”
Despite the scale of the problem, YMCA’s limited resources meant it could only provide shelter to around 300 of the 1,500 people which reached out to them.
It is therefore raising funds to increase its space at its shelter Dar Niki Cassar, with a 12-hour telethon scheduled to air on all Maltese TV stations between noon and midnight today.
“The problem is bigger than the services available,” Hermitage said. “We want to say yes to everyone and give everyone an opportunity. We opened a second house in the midst of Covid and we’ve now secured a third house but it’s still not enough. We really, really need to grow so we don’t turn away families who need this support.”
Hermitage urged people to make a distinction between rooflessness, ie. people sleeping on the street, and homelessness, ie. people who don’t have a place to call home.
“There are families who live in garages two floors underground, families who live in cars, residents in our shelters…” she explained.“We’re seeing many situations of homelessness which aren’t rooted in social issues but changing circumstances, such as health problems, job losses in the midst of the pandemic, separations, and rent increases.”
“They’re fairly common situations and we shouldn’t take it for granted that everyone has a support system.”
Hermitage also called out the popular allegation that people only end up homeless if they’ve done something wrong themselves.
“It’s actually counter-productive because it pushes them further into hiding instead of reaching out for help. We have many people in our shelters who would never tell the people they know that they live in a shelter; three-quarters of our residents have a full-time job.”
Cover photo: Left: Dar Niki Cassar