Rising rent prices and family breakdowns are leading YMCA to turn down five times as many homeless people as it used last year, The Sunday Times of Malta has learnt.

YMCA CEO Anthony Camilleri had started to turn down one person every day last year but was now turning away five referrals every day.

Many of those seeking help are aged 20 to 35, but Mr Camilleri said the number of homeless cases involving people over 65 was increasing.

The organisation used to run two shelters but had to shut down one of their premises which housed unattended minors due to a lack of funds. Its remaining shelter can host 30 people daily.

The shelter runs two main programmes, including a residential one based on a maximum 18-month stay. It also runs an emergency admission programme targeting people who become stranded during the night and have nowhere to go. People using the shelter are offered a care programme and counselling.

Massive foreign presence

Both Maltese and foreign nationals were turning up asking for help every day, Mr Camilleri said. However, the organisation has been inundated with foreigners over the past year, data shows. A third of its foreign clients are EU citizens, while nearly a half are migrants, according to the latest figures.

Read: Homelessness is Malta's 'best kept secret', says researcher

Though some referral cases were unemployed, Mr Camilleri warned of the rise in the working homeless: those who had a job but still could not afford a roof over their heads.

Meanwhile, Anthony Gatt, CEO of Caritas Malta, told a conference on Thursday those working at emergency shelter Dar Papa Franġisku were “scrambling” to find more places for people.

A spokeswoman for Caritas, which runs both Dar Papa Franġisku and Dar Maria Dolores, said the number of people in the emergency shelters was constantly fluctuating.

However, she said the situation worsened over the past few months as the weather got colder.

She also noted many foreigners would come to Malta and seek refuge in the shelters until they found their feet.

“We have a lot of foreigners who come to Malta and stay at the shelter until they get their first or second pay cheque and can afford to move out,” the spokeswoman said.

Dar Papa Franġisku and Dar Maria Dolores are emergency shelters, where a person can spend the night, wash their clothes and have a warm meal. While food is given to anyone who turns up at the shelters, the number of beds are limited, so a spot has to be reserved at 6pm for each night.

People can stay there for a maximum of six weeks, while a third shelter, called Reach, provides residential services.

Anyone who would like to help YMCA can get in touch at their head office, 178, Merchants Street, Valletta, on 2767 4278 or info@ymcahomeless.org, or their Facebook page called YMCA Valletta.

Caritas Malta can meanwhile be reached at 5, Lion Street, Floriana, or on 2590 6600. Log onto https://caritasmalta.org for more information or to make a donation.

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