As last weekend’s storm battered the country, homeless people who usually sleep rough on beaches and in boats struggled to find shelter, with many seeking refuge in cars or shell-form properties, two leading shelters told the Times of Malta.

Authorities on Sunday advised people to stay indoors, as record high-speed gales that were reported to pose a “high threat to life and property” uprooted trees, demolished walls and structures and wreaked havoc across both islands.

YMCA head Anthony Camilleri said that the NGO was approached by 10 people seeking shelter since Saturday, but the shelter was “full”. The cases were reverted to Aġenzija Appoġġ, which refers cases to YMCA.

“We were very worried about them due to the weather,” the YMCA CEO said. “From experience, we know some homeless people do sleep in boats.” 

He added that it was “very common” for homeless people to find shell properties to spend the night in. However, he warned, the practice was very dangerous, “not to mention illegal”. Unfortunately, he continued, it was hard to quantify the amount of people who were stranded with no shelter during the storm last weekend.

We know some homeless people do sleep in boats

A spokeswoman for Caritas said there was no clear pattern for people turning up at the temporary shelter but noted they were aware many were ‘squatting’ in uninhabited places to survive.

People who find a comfort zone were less likely to reach out, she said, adding some also resorted to sleeping in cars.

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The temporary shelter run by Caritas and supported by the Alfred Mizzi Foundation and the government, sees 50 people a day turning up for food and a bed. 

It was clear people could not keep up with rising rent prices, she said, adding that although the country was experiencing economic growth, many were struggling to purchase basic needs.

Last weekend’s storm brought winds which reached gusts of up to 133 km/hour, causing damage to electricity networks and forcing road closures across the whole island. The Civil Protection Department was inundated with people asking for help and received 486 calls. Fourteen people were evacuated from Sliema and 12 from two localities in Vittoriosa, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

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