Updated at 8.35am with video
The six years she spent homeless are back to haunt a 36-year-old who was given one week to vacate the place she has been renting for 10 years.
“I don’t want to end up on the street again. When you don’t have your own home you don’t feel safe and secure, you’re all the time guarding your few possessions,” Lara* told the Times of Malta in between packing her bags and frantically looking for a place she could rent within her budget.
“Your mind is never at peace when there’s nowhere to go to after a day at work,” she added.
The young woman first experienced homelessness when she left her parents’ house aged 18.
She had been suffering depression and anxiety for a couple of years but did not receive any understanding or support from her family. Things got so bad that apart from being prescribed medical treatment she was even advised to leave her parents’ home.
Lara eventually spent six years in shelters for the homeless, where she was helped to find a job and start renting her own place. But 12 years on, she feels as if everything is coming undone.
It started with the landlord doubling her monthly rent without a contract. He refused to draw up a rental agreement and asked her to vacate the premises, she said.
When she asked to buy the apartment instead, the landlord gave her only one month to settle the purchase. Her other option was to leave within one week.
Lara was left with no choice but to look for a place elsewhere. However, the price was too hefty, so she has also applied to be put on the housing waiting list.
Without family support, the ordeal has again robbed her of her health and anxiety was back, she admitted.
“I’m already picturing myself sleeping on the roads, especially considering that shelters have been full up in recent months. This is keeping me up all night,” she said.
Growing divide between rich and poor
Contacted for a comment, Caritas Malta director Anthony Gatt said society was experiencing a further divide between the rich and the poor.
People with low income going through a personal crisis, those experiencing mental health difficulties, the elderly, exploited migrants and those who de-pended on private rent were among the most vulnerable when it came to securing a safe roof on their head, he said.
Mr Gatt referred to a figure – 80 per cent home ownership – that has been quoted to indicate that homelessness was not a widespread problem. At the same time, sights of homeless people living a vagabond life were not as obviously evident as in major European cities.
“While the number of those without a roof over their head may indeed be contained, we are seeing a growing number of people who end up going back to live with parents, family or friends, following a divorce or separation, or because they can’t cope with rising rents and don’t afford to buy property either,” Mr Gatt noted.
There were also young people, still living with parents, who were being squashed out of the property market, he remarked. This was leading to reduced quality of life and psychological strain.
Mr Gatt said that housing authority plans to build more than 1,000 units, an increased rent subsidy, equity sharing schemes and the provision of emergency shelters were all effective means to address and alleviate these very difficult realities.
“However, the residential units will take time to be built and may still not be enough to address all needs.
“We have also come across people who don’t manage to get a regular rental contract because some owners refuse to regularise their rent. As a result, the tenant can’t apply for the subsidy. In the meantime, vulnerable people continue to suffer,” Mr Gatt pointed out.
Lara can be contacted via 2590 6600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Name has been changed
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