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40 other homeless persons seek YMCA's assistance

Almost Lm7,000 has been raised from the YMCA event in which six personalities experienced what it was like to be homeless for 26 hours last Friday, in an event meant to create awareness of the problem in Malta.

The money will be used to pay for the employment of a professional social worker, the need for whom was sorely felt, and towards the completion of refurbishment works on the block of apartments in Merchants Street, said YMCA Valletta chairman Jean Paul Mifsud.

Mr Mifsud stressed that there was a lack of psychologists to treat the homeless.

Providing shelter was only part of the process and professional psychological and psychiatric care was imperative.

Although voluntary work was important, it was also important to invest in professional care, he said.

Mr Mifsud said the fund-raising initiative was also successful in that it managed to raise awareness on the issue of homelessness. Members of the public found it hard to believe that around 300 persons in Malta had no home.

The problem was not as visible in Malta as it was in other countries, where people begged on the streets. Nevertheless, the youngest person currently in the YMCA's care was 10 and, prior to that, there was a two-year-old, Mr Mifsud pointed out.

Since the YMCA campaign, another 40 homeless persons sought the assistance of the YMCA. Their problems would not be solved overnight, but at least their situation was known and they were being cared for, Mr Mifsud said.

He appealed to those who had vacant houses, or flats, which they wanted to rent - irrespective of their condition - to contact the YMCA.

The personalities, who participated in the campaign by spending 26 hours in a 'bedroom' set up under a marquee in Freedom Square, were satisfied with its outcome and touched by the problems people faced.

These included Peppi Azzopardi, John Bundy, Xandru Grech, Andrea Cassar, Eileen Montesin and Christine Haber.

In his contact with those who approached him, Mr Bundy was most impressed by the solitude of persons with drug and alcohol problems; people who described their lives as "broken"; and those who had problems they just could not overcome.

The fact that Malta had so many problems which people were not aware of was "frightening", he said.

Five persons who had either experienced homelessness, or currently had nowhere to live, confided in Ms Cassar during the event. They said they had been abused and chucked out of home.

Ms Montesin was also impressed by the fact that youths still found time to carry out voluntary work, while Mr Azzopardi spoke about the importance of raising awareness.

And the YMCA campaign goes on... The sixth annual YMCA Valletta Festival kicks off on June 29, with City Films from July 1-6 and City Nights from July 6-13.

The film festival City Films is revolving around Francis Ford Coppola. Sofas and a big screen are being placed outside the law courts and discussions will follow each screening.

City Nights - family and youth entertainment, in the form of music, theatre, art and sports, with an intercultural slant - are being held at Freedom Square and the Opera House.

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