Lonely life that led to an early death
A few weeks ago Renald Mallia sent a text message to the man who ran a residence for homeless men, where he used to live two years before, to say he was doing well and was drug-free.
On Sunday afternoon the lifeless body of the 34-year-old, a former heroin user, was found on a beach in Valletta after possibly taking an overdose.
“Here at the home we are under shock. We can’t believe he’s dead… The pain caused by abandonment and homelessness is being ignored in this country,om “ said Charles Mifsud, who manages Dar Patri Leopoldo, Mr Mallia’s home for over a year.
Mr Mallia’s brother, Omar, believes that the tragic story goes to show that Renald, who had may unresolved childhood issues, needed help beyond overcoming his addiction.
“Why do junkies take drugs in the first place? It’s not for nothing. It’s useless just solving the addiction without going deeper. The roots of the tree were still sick,” he said.
Police yesterday said the autopsy on Mr Mallia’s body was inconclusive. However, preliminary results showed he may have died from pulmonary oedema – fluid accumulation in the lungs.
This is usually indicative of an overdose, sources said. However, further tests, including toxicology tests, are due to be carried out.
Speaking in a soft voice Mr Mifsud said that, as far as he knew, Mr Mallia was not doing drugs. They were still in contact and he knew Mr Mallia had a job, working in construction, and was renting an apartment.
“From the outside he looked like everything was fine. But I have learnt that you never truly know. He had a lonely life and unresolved issues,” he said.
“I called him ‘clown’. He hid his sadness by making others laugh… Renald was a kind young man. He gave to others to make up for what he never had,” Mr Mifsud said.
Mr Mallia had shared his story during a business breakfast on homelessness in May 2010 organised by Suret il-Bniedem foundation, that runs the home.
Back then he said he was speaking up to show that homeless people existed in Malta and needed support.
He recounted how, when he was born, he was placed in an institution and bounced around several foster families. But he was always sent back to the institution because he was naughty.
When he was 14 he had to leave the home and tried living with his mother. But he could not stick it and preferred living on the streets, sleeping in buses and washing himself in public toilets. He started hanging around with the wrong crowd and ended up doing heavy drugs – mainly heroin.
“I took drugs to get my mind off things. I didn’t care about anything... I lived life without consequences,” he had said.
This attitude landed him in trouble with the police who initially guided him to a drug rehabilitation home. But he left the home after a while and was back on the streets.
Eventually, after an unsuccessful marriage, he met a woman who encouraged him to seek help. He started attending rehabilitation again, found a job and rented an apartment.
But when his relationship with the woman ended, he started feeling alone and took drugs again. He lost his job and apartment and returned to living on the streets.
He was arrested and ended up in prison. The courts then ordered him to attend Dar Patri Leopoldo.
“There I found support and freedom all rolled into one... I could speak to others about what I was going through... I realised I was capable of doing many things. I have a job... I finally said no to drugs. I see life differently now...,” he had said.
So full of hope back then, an unkind life has ended in a cruel death.