Shelters a must to help needy cases, minister says

Bail us out... Personalities have been put in `jail` and will only be released when they raise their targeted Lm1,000 (€2,329.37). Photos: Matthew Mirabelli.

Bail us out... Personalities have been put in `jail` and will only be released when they raise their targeted Lm1,000 (€2,329.37). Photos: Matthew Mirabelli.

Social Solidarity Minister Dolores Cristina believes shelters such as YMCA were essential to give first assistance in cases where the government may not so be quick to act.

"We need to strengthen these structures. Even though we feel homelessness is not an issue, we have to admit there are people who need shelter and faster than can be provided by the authorities," she said.

Ms Cristina said there were people who were being turned away by their families, something that never used to happen before, while others had no choice but to leave violent environments at home.

She added that through the Housing Authority and other initiatives, the government was working with non-governmental organisations to address these problems.

Ms Cristina was speaking to The Times during one of her many visits to the Homeless Personalities Charity Event organised by YMCA in Republic Street, Valletta, over this weekend.

Jean Paul Mifsud, chairman of this non-profit voluntary organisation, said the most disconcerting thing was that YMCA had to turn away 55 people between January and September, because its shelter, Dar Niki Cassar, was full to capacity.

The charity needs over Lm106,000 (€246,913.58) a year to run its shelter Dar Niki Cassar, which houses up to 22 people; its drop-in centre, which deals with around 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 was launched to erase this debt.

The situation yesterday was encouraging - in a matter of three hours more than Lm2,500 (€5,823.43) had been collected, while kind-hearted suppliers had promised necessary items such as bricks, washing machines and computers.

Mr Mifsud explained that YMCA Homeless had reported a total of 14,192 interventions of different natures in the first nine months of this year, more than three times the number for the corresponding period last year.

Announcing statistics from a fieldwork report, Mr Mifsud said the demand for YMCA support in 2005 had reached a peak of 6,405 interventions involving 9,000 clients. This went down to 4,604 interventions involving 6,182 clients in 2006, but exploded to over 14,000 interventions among 10,489 clients this year.

Cases of childcare increased from 900 between January to September last year to 1,045 cases in the same period this year, he said.

This year, YMCA had a daily average of 64 daily interventions accommodating a daily average of 46 people.

The personalities going homeless in the middle of Republic Street will be there today and tomorrow until 2 p.m. to raise awareness on the plight of Malta's homeless.

Mass will be said tomorrow in Republic Street at 10.45 a.m. and Archbishop Paul Cremona will close the event with blessing and a message.

Throughout the weekend, the personalities taking part in the event will play Jail And Bail - they will be held in a "jail" and will only be released when they raise their targeted Lm1,000 (€2,329.37). They will only be given a mobile phone and yellow pages to contact suppliers and appeal for donations.

Benefactors will be able to dine with their favourite celebrity by bidding on 2122 8035 or sending an e-mail to

Carrie, Ira Losco, Ivan Grech, and others will give unplugged performances tonight at 10.30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Agenda Bookshop is holding a fundraising book fair at Freedom Square, Valletta, until November 11.

An auction of antiques, paintings and other items will also be held on Freedom Square on the last day to close the fund-raiser.

Kenneth DeMartino, chairman of CT Park Ltd, said electric City Cabs are providing a free service to those going to Republic Street to support the event. Employees are also offering their time without payment.

For more information e-mail or call on 2122 8035.

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