An emergency shelter – the first of its sort for Malta – will be opening its doors this summer to welcome the increasing number of people who end up without a roof or a warm meal overnight.

“There are people who have to choose between paying rent and paying for food. When they choose the former, they risk starving.

“Sometimes, their issues go beyond lack of food, and after having a meal here, there will always be someone they can open up to, and who can put them in touch with the local support services,” Ernest Cherrett, who will be managing Dar Papa Franġisku in Birkirkara told this newspaper.

The shelter, which will be run by a recently set up foundation called Dar il-Hena, will welcome men and women until another house is eventually opened for women.

The foundation is a collaboration between the government through the Family Ministry, the Church through Caritas Malta and the private sector through the Alfred Mizzi Foundation.

The idea is the brainchild of the Alfred Mizzi Foundation, founded by Alf. Mizzi and Sons in 2003. On its 100th anniversary, the company contacted Caritas because of its experience within the field, which in turn sought the government’s support.

Dar Papa Franġisku in Birkirkara is being transformed into an emergency shelter.Dar Papa Franġisku in Birkirkara is being transformed into an emergency shelter.

The government is refurbishing the shelter – a house on Fleur-de-Lys Road in Birkirkara – which can host some 20 beds. The place will cater for the basic needs, including shower facilities and food.

The Alfred Mizzi Foundation will be furnishing the kitchen and dining room and providing food for daily meals.

The shelter is the first of its sort as it will provide people with a bed for the night if they suddenly find themselves homeless. Dar Papa Franġisku will be an emergency shelter, meaning that in principle, it can provide a bed for the night, and the person can then be referred for support the following day. Others, who have a roof over their head, but no food, can drop in for a meal.

The administrators, the caretakers and the social workers would always be ready to lend an ear, Mr Cherrett said.

“Sometimes people just need someone to talk to. But we will not be inundating those who knock on our door with questions,” his colleague Ian Galea said.

“It is already humiliating enough for someone to find himself in such a situation, and going to an emergency shelter is often a last resort,” he added, noting that the home will be a bridge linking people on the street with local support services.

The main administrators come from three agencies: Mr Galea from Sedqa, Mr Cherrett from Caritas Malta and Ana Johnson from Aġenzija Appoġġ.

Although it is still being refurbished, there is already demand for the shelter.

Caritas Malta’s PRO Marica Mizzi said around four to five people, some with children, seek Caritas’s help every week, and while the charity provides immediate help, including food, it cannot always refer them to a shelter, as they are full up.

Any volunteers who would like to lend a hand can call on 2788 8211. More information on info@caritasmalta.org

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