YMCA highlights plight of the homeless

John Bundy and Andrea Cassar were among the well-known people who spent the day at Freedom Square.

John Bundy and Andrea Cassar were among the well-known people who spent the day at Freedom Square.

Six well-known people yesterday 'bedded down' in Freedom Square, Valletta in aid of the homeless.

Hundreds of passers-by chatted and posed for pictures with them as they braved the stifling heat and uncomfortable conditions. The event was organised by the YMCA.

But the inconvenience of being cooped up in a tent most of the time in mid-June was a small price to pay compared with the discomfort homeless people had to endure, the participants said.

Recent research from the different shelters across Malta shows that there are about 300 people who have no home. Yet many agree that the problem of the homeless is often hidden.

The majority of these cases are women and children who prefer to risk living on the streets rather than in an abusive environment.

Peppi Azzopardi said he was surprised at the number of people who were unaware that there were homeless people in Malta.

He said cases of domestic violence were always on the increase, pushing more and more people out of their homes.

Mr Azzopardi said he believed the government had a duty to provide financial help to organisations such as the YMCA, which helped those in need.

Eileen Montesin said the problem of homeless people in Malta was not as visible as in some other European cities.

"What we don't see, we don't know, and this is not the right attitude to deal with our problems," she said.

Xandru Grech agreed and said people often tended to disregard problems which did not affect them directly.

Andrea Cassar said she hoped the 24-hour stunt might encourage those who have fallen victim to abuse to know that there was an alternative.

"These people need to know that there are people out there who are willing to help," the Net TV presenter said.

DJ John Bundy said many people wrongly felt that homeless people only had themselves to blame and should do something about the situation.

"At home, most of us go into a frenzy simply because the water heater is out of order. Little do we realise that there are others who don't even have a roof to protect them," he said.

The event is also a means to raise money for the YMCA's new block of flats in Merchants Street, Valletta, which will serve as a shelter for the homeless.

The YMCA currently provides a 'home' for 16 people, in a shelter that is only intended to house 10. All the 16 cases are women and children, with the youngest being a two-and-a-half-year-old boy.

YMCA president Jean Paul Mifsud said the waiting list was growing but the new shelter would solve this problem of space since it would have 44 beds, with four beds in each room.

The refurbishing of this new block has cost Lm51,000 and the YMCA estimates that it will cost another Lm39,000 a year to run.

People may donate money by calling 50049113 for Lm3; 50049115 for Lm5, and 50049110 for Lm10.

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