There are an estimated 300 homeless people currently living in Malta, with the situation slowly getting worse and being mostly hidden from sight, local experts are warning.
The meaning of homelessness is often misunderstood locally, with no strict legal definition under Maltese law, and the stereotypical image of someone living rough on the streets may not always be the case.
“There are multiple factors as to why people end up being homeless. It can be due to mental health, addiction, getting separated, following people being released from prison or institutions, so essentially every person has to be evaluated as an individual to identify why they have become homeless,” said Dr Roberta Sammut, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Dr Sammut spoke to Lovin Malta following a recent conference on homelessness organised by University of Malta’s Faculty of Health Sciences, the Faculty of Social Wellbeing and YMCA titled ‘Homelessness: The Hidden Scandal’.
‘Malta’s homelessness services needed to be combined into a one stop shop’ – Dr Sammut
Maltese experts have called for a combination of homelessness services in Malta, to make the situation easier for those who find themselves in need of support.
“In Malta, the services are currently scattered. We need a one stop shop, or as we call it, integrated care, so people are not going around from one office to another,” she said.
And when they are given assistance, the support should be seen through to the end.
“Once they are provided with assistance, it is important that the assistance is followed up on and they are continuously supported, so the vicious cycle does not not continue itself,” she said.
Dr Sammut called for a multidisciplinary approach, where Maltese professionals worked and liaised together, as opposed to the current situation where many professionals find themselves tackling a situation alone.
Importantly, she said it’s essential for people to be aware of any possible vulnerable people around them.
“I think it’s about identifying people early,” she said. “These could be people in your own family, and oftentimes their support network has failed, they receive no family support or support from their neighbours, and this breakdown in the network of support leads to homelessness. And it’s important that no matter who it is, we are not being judgemental.”
She also pointed out that just because one may have some form of roof over their head doesn’t mean they aren’t homeless
“People who have a roof over their head, like those who are helped by YMCA or Caritas, or people staying in an abandoned house, while they might have a roof over their head, they are still considered homeless. They don’t have their own accommodation nor sense of security and sense of belonging,” she said.
At the end of the day, she concluded: “Homelessness can affect anybody under the right conditions.”