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Shelter offers lifeline to the homeless

Wearing black leggings and a fitting top, Angela*, 39, walks into the room, flashes a smile and sits down, wrapping her hands protectively around her protruding belly.

Chestnut hair pulled up and barefaced, except for a hint of sparkly lip gloss, she looks so serene that it's hard to imagine how each morning her primary concern is getting enough food for her four children and husband.

Any other expectant mother would be focusing on a nutritious diet and steering clear of eating for two, but driven by hunger these thoughts never enter Angela's mind as she depends on the charity of kind-hearted people.

"If it weren't for YMCA my family and I would be out on the streets. I don't know what we would have done without their consistent help," she said.

Angela and her family have been living in Dar Niki Cassar, YMCA's shelter in Valletta for the homeless, for five months. They are just a few of the people who have benefited from this service.

The charity needs over Lm100,000 (€246,913.58) a year to run its shelter, which houses up to 22 people; its drop-in centre, which deals with about 60 cases a day; and a wide range of programmes to help the homeless reintegrate into society.

However, this year YMCA Homeless is Lm30,000 (€69,881.2) in the red, so a blitz fund-raising campaign is being launched this weekend, with personalities going "homeless" in Valletta, to erase this debt.

Angela hopes the campaign will be successful because she does not know how she can ever show her gratitude to YMCA.

"Apart from taking us in and giving us a roof over our heads, it's not the first time they have provided us with yoghurt, milk and a packet of pasta when the going gets tough," she said.

Until six years ago, Angela never had to worry about life. She lived in a flat in Cospicua but when her husband died of a heart attack at 40, the trouble started.

Her deceased husband and his brother had entered into some form of agreement on property, which she was oblivious to.

Her brother-in-law eventually roped her into signing legally-binding documents on the place, which she thought were intended to eventually pass the flat onto her eldest son. However, she had signed away her rights.

Four years after his death, she started dating another man and that's when her in-laws began to harass her, taunting and tormenting her.

Two years later, after she had married again, her brother-in-law showed up with his muscled brothers and friends to forcefully kick her out of the house.

With nowhere to go, she turned to her mother, but when her brother showed up too, it became too crammed so the family had to pack their meagre belongings and move again... this time to Dar Niki Cassar.

Her husband, who is qualified in electro-construction, is registering with the Employment and Training Corporation and is fervently hoping he can land a job to care for his extended family and their new baby on the way.

With the help of the YMCA and the Housing Authority, they hope to move into their very own place in the coming weeks and start a fresh chapter in their life.

"I can't wait," she said, her face lighting up with happiness.

To pledge year-round support to YMCA Homeless or for more information visit www.ymcahomeless.org or call on 2122 8035. To make a donation of Lm2 (€4.66) send an SMS to 5061 8088, or for Lm5 (€11.65) send an SMS to 5061 9212.

* Name has been changed to protect the person's identity.

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