Generous public supports 'homeless' event

At the `homeless` event

At the `homeless` event

The media personalities who have opted to experience homelessness to raise awareness of the 300 homeless people in Malta have braved the bulk of their 30 hours in Freedom Square, Valletta.

The YMCA's Homeless Personalities event, taking place between yesterday and today, is aimed at raising money for its Valletta Homeless Project - a new shelter costing Lm70,000.

Food, pillows and sheets, heaters, a freezer and other household items to fill the home and make it hospitable were donated by a generous public, which also provided the personalities with pizzas for lunch.

While they were allowed to have their toiletries last year, this year they could not take any personal belongings and are relying completely on the public's generosity.

Jeeps were also being sent around the island to collect donations, while appeals are being made on radio and TV stations.

"We appealed for heaters and within 20 minutes we received six," said DJ Joe Tanti.

"The experience is allowing us to understand where the homeless come from through our contact with them. They are from all walks of life and not necessarily uneducated, or ignorant. One wrong move and they are out on the street.

"They are victims of circumstance; they did not ask for these problems; it just happened overnight; and it can happen to anyone."

The personalities spent the day in the sweltering heat, under the shade of their bunk beds, plonked in the middle of Freedom Square.

Activities, such as music by Peruvians, were organised during the day to help raise more money, and works of art are being collected for a future auction.

TV presenter Ray Calleja and The Times journalist Rosanne Zammit described their experience as "exciting" and "a laugh". They were gearing up to spend the night outdoors on what they considered to be relatively comfortable beds.

They were also equipped with a TV on which to watch Xarabank announce Malta's sexiest male and female, two of the finalists, Xandru Grech and Andrea Cassar, being among the personalities spending 30 hours without a roof over their heads.

As part of the event, which aims to help the public understand what it is really like to be homeless, HSBC Bank Malta, Gasan Group, Farsons Group and Mizzi Organisation have joined forces and presented a donation to help the YMCA finish its new shelter, scheduled to open in August.

The shelter should be able to take 44 people and part of it would also be available for back-packers.

"Homelessness is a problem that is frequently overlooked in Malta. The YMCA hopes that the event will help to change the situation and encourage more companies to follow the example set by HSBC, Gasan, Farsons and the Mizzi Organisation," said YMCA chairman Jean Paul Mifsud.

Other participants in the fund-raising event include Clare Agius, Nathal Attard Bayliss, Peppi Azzopardi, Brendan Borg, Annalise Ellul, Xandru Grech, Christine Haber, Mariella Scerri and Gianni Zammit.

Maltacom is supporting the event through dedicated lines for anyone wishing to make a donation. For a Lm3 donation call 5004 9493; for a Lm5 donation call 5004 9495; and for a Lm10 donation call 5004 9490. The lines will be open for two weeks.

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