A 22-year-old construction worker who lost a limb after falling into a cement mixer was forced to sleep on the streets after his inability to keep up with the rent following his accident forced him to become homeless.
Mekhi’s story was one of many highlighted by YMCA Malta in a conference on Wednesday, where it published a new white paper aimed at tackling the root causes of homelessness and its ties to migration and inclusion.
The incident which crippled the worker last July at a construction site in Żurrieq saw rescuers from the Civil Protection Department struggle for two hours to free him from the machine’s grip and the fast-setting concrete within it.
Sharing his story with YMCA, Mekhi, who came to Malta in 2019 as an asylum seeker from Sudan, said it only took three and a half seconds for a five-metre fall to change his life completely.
“As soon as I hit the mixer, I felt these agonising, shooting pains running through my legs and lower back,” he said.
“There was blood everywhere and my leg was crushed to bits. I think the adrenaline kept me going until I was finally put on a stretcher... that’s when I passed out.”
Mekhi, whose full name was not provided by YMCA, was kept in an induced coma at Mater Dei hospital for three weeks, enduring countless surgical interventions, before awaking to find that his left leg had been amputated from above his knee, with his remaining leg also having sustained serious injuries.
“It’s been a hard battle for me,” he said. “The hundreds of little actions you do every day without even giving them a second thought have suddenly become real obstacles.”
“I was on the streets, sleeping roofless for a week"- Mekhi
Initially, he had been staying with a friend and attending physiotherapy sessions several times a week, but things took a turn when his friend decided to move back to Sudan.
“Without any income, I was unable to pay the rent and the landlord told me I had to leave,” he continued.
“I was on the streets, sleeping roofless for a week before contacting Appoġġ and coming to stay at a YMCA shelter.”
Mekhi credits YMCA for “saving my life” as he had begun to consider suicide, with no roof over his head and continuing to conceal his injuries from his family back home.
“I had become increasingly despondent when I looked at my circumstances, even worse when I ended up having no place to live,” he said.
“I had not struggled to come to Europe to end up on the streets and I was contemplating suicide because I was on the verge of losing all hope and just giving up. I am not used to asking for help and usually do things on my own so I am still adjusting.”
Mekhi says that YMCA is helping him map a way forward with his life and that he feels increasingly hopeful for his future.
“I know what I have lost but I also now realise that I have the support to plan a future for myself and I still have my family back in Sudan that I have to think about,” Mekhi said.
“I have not told them anything about my accident as yet and they do not know what has happened to me. Often, I feel like I was their hope and I have let them down.”