Personalities in awareness-raising for the homeless

Xandru, Eileen, Peppi and John, who brought his pillow along, at the press conference.

Xandru, Eileen, Peppi and John, who brought his pillow along, at the press conference.

Recent research from the different shelters across Malta shows that there are about 300 people who have no home, YMCA president Jean Paul Mifsud said.

The majority of these cases are women and children who in most of the cases preferred to risk living on the streets than in an abusive environment, he said.

In the light of this YMCA has organised an event, the first of its kind in Malta, where six personalities will become 'homeless' for 24 hours.

The personalities, who need no introduction, are Peppi Azzopardi, John Bundy, Xandru Grech, Andrea Cassar, Eileen Montesin and Christine Haber.

On Friday at 10 a.m. the six will spend 24 hours in a 'bedroom' set up under a marquee on Freedom Square, Valletta.

Speaking at a press conference outside the Law Courts in Valletta yesterday, Mr Mifsud said this event was aimed at creating an awareness about the homeless problem in Malta.

"The problem of homeless people in Malta is not as visible as it is in, say, other countries such as the UK, where people are begging on the streets," Mr Mifsud said.

Mr Bundy said what pushed him to join YMCA in this event was an incident where he witnessed a woman with two children pleading for a roof over her head.

"That's when reality hits home and makes you want to do something concrete to help these people. None of us are doing it for the publicity," he said.

Mr Azzopardi agreed and also raised the point that many people felt that if a person was homeless then it was through their own fault and they should do something about it.

"This is an unfair comment, because these people do not choose to be without a home. I guess we say this to clear our conscience. Certain situations are beyond anyone's control," he said.

Ms Montesin and Mr Grech too felt this way and they hoped that their efforts would help to generate an awareness on the plight of these people.

Friday's event will also be a way of collecting money which will go towards the YMCA's new block of apartments in Merchants Street, Valletta, which will serve as a shelter for those who had no home.

Mr Mifsud said that at the moment YMCA provided a 'home' for 16 people, in a shelter that was only intended to house 10.

All the 16 cases involve women and children, with the youngest being a two-and-a-half-year-old boy.

Mr Mifsud said there were many more waiting to get in and the new shelter will solve this problem of space since it will have 44 beds, with four beds in each room.

The refurbishing costs of this new block has cost Lm51,000 and the YMCA estimates that it will cost another Lm38,965 a year to run it.

At the moment the YMCA has only one social worker helping out in its shelter as well as a number of employees, but it needs more people to come forward, especially when the new shelter is opened.

YMCA Valletta, established in 1976, was set up to help young people, children and the underprivileged and in the early Seventies and Eighties it was the only organisation to deal with cases of drug rehabilitation.

At present YMCA gets referrals from the Church, non-governmental organisations, government departments and private individuals.

In the run-up to Friday's event people will be able to donate money by calling 5004-9113 for Lm3; 5004-9115 for Lm5 and 5004-9110 for Lm10.

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