I'm going home

I'm going home

Despite his sad past, Thomas is positive about life. Photo Jason Borg

Despite his sad past, Thomas is positive about life. Photo Jason Borg

Thomas* was abandoned by his father when he was just two, and his mother also left him to fend for himself at the age of 15. Two years later, he works 12 hours a day, seven days a week to support girlfriend and child.

A young and spritely Thomas, blonde with bright blue eyes, wearing pastel colours, and looking fresh and energised at 8 a.m., walks into the YMCA premises in Valletta. He shakes my hand, introduces himself and sits down to tell his story.

Rejected by his parents at 15, the English boy abused drugs in his depths of misery, spent days crying every night, and had to live in a garage. He resorted to stealing because he was so desperate to get some money for his pregnant girlfriend.

Considering the traumas Thomas has been through, he has a remarkable enthusiasm for life. He is also polite and soft-spoken.

However, he's clearly wounded by the fact that his mother rejected him and keeps on bringing this up during the interview. "If only my mum had helped me, I would have been OK." The reason for much of Thomas's misery and resorting to drugs clearly points to the absence of his mother in his life.

Last month, Thomas was arrested and taken to the lock-up for two days because he had stolen a car and a motorcycle. Before his arrest, he had been living in an unnumbered garage with no water and electricity, as well as no possessions. The police didn't believe he had no home address. At the lock-up he asked if he could call his girlfriend, the only person he considered to be family. He was put under probation for a period of three years.

"I stole out of desperation," he says defensively. He explains how down and depressed he felt when he was living in the garage. He had no money and badly needed it to support his girlfriend and the baby she was expecting. Nobody wanted to help him and he felt that stealing was his only way out.

His girlfriend gave birth to a baby on Mother's Day. "She went to live with her mother a month before she was due to have the baby. I was down and couldn't keep up with the rent". Eventually he was given a mattress and a heater but he was leading a miserable life.

To look at him and to speak to him is to see a young person who has put the broken pieces back together and wants to make a good life for himself and his family.

"What mother dumps her son and goes away to another country, as mine did when we were living in the UK" Thomas says. "I felt rejected".

The darkest times for Thomas were the six months after his mother left. He used to cry every day and felt depressed. "Your mum is your mum - she's meant to be there for you, I thought I was going to have a major breakdown."

He had at one time met his real father. Though he was initially accepted, Thomas decided to move away when his father asked him to lend him some money - he was evidently being considered a source of revenue, however small.

Somehow he found it within himself to pull himself together and make a change in his life. "I realised I would take a turn for the worse," he explains.

Both his mother and step-father are English however their link with Malta is that they were often coming and going to and from the island with their children and for a while were residents in Malta.

Having visited Malta a number of times in his youth, fuelled by nostalgia, he evidently had fallen in love with the romantic notion that life would be easier here. So he found a job and saved enough to return to Malta to start a life of his own.

He arrived with just £30, knowing no one and having no relatives in Malta. Here he met his girlfriend and after two months she fell pregnant. He had trouble with her family because they didn't like the fact that he was English and unemployed.

"Life's better now. I feel I've found people who want to help me at the YMCA."

Besides the YMCA, the probation services are also assisting him. He is determined to give his girlfriend and child a different life to his. He proudly confides that he is planning a secret surprise for his girlfriend and child.

Thomas is determined to put his past behind him. "One day I will turn to my family and tell them, 'you didn't treat me well but look what I did for myself.'"

Thomas is currently living at YMCA Homeless, Dar Niki Cassar, which is constantly available to help people in such plight. The YMCA is also working with minors and is opening a new specialised home for these cases. Those who wish to help and pledge support or would like more information may visit www.ymcahomeless.org, call 2122 8035 or send an e-mail to info@ymcahomeless.org. To make a donation of €4.66 (Lm2) send an SMS to 5061 8088, or for €11.65 (Lm5) send an SMS to 5061 9212.

* Names have been changed to protect the person's identity.

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