Homelessness amongst women and children in Malta is often a result of domestic violence, a report has revealed.
The study – released by YMCA Valletta – found that many victims end up on the street because of high rents, a lack of awareness of services available to them, or because they are stuck in a downward spiral of drug use.
As part of the research – carried out by Outlook Coop - 10 women were interviewed about how they went from victims of violence, to homeless or living in shelters.
One woman – known only as Kimberly – highlighted how the country’s high rental market has repeatedly forced her and her two children out of their home.
Despite having a full-time job, she earns a little more than the weekly minimum wage of €175.84 and could no longer afford the average rent of €800.
Another woman – known as Stephanie – told researchers how she would go hungry to afford the rent for her and her abuser’s accommodation.
“He never used to give me rental money. I always used to pay the rent myself, because I used to think ‘it’s better to be hungry than being evicted’. Today, Stephanie is so desperate to have her own home she told researchers: “I would even go to a room in the middle of Filfla.”
Another woman – known as Rita – was living in a windowless dwelling, which used to be a garage, while “Gabriella” said she started doing drugs after leaving a violent relationship and ended up in prison. This became a cycle for her as every time she got out of prison, she committed crimes in order to get back in as she had nowhere else to go.
Impact on children
All 10 women interviewed are also mothers and said having a child or children made their situations much more complicated.
Some were separated from their kids when forced from the family home by violence. Others say they were unable to stay at the same shelters as their children, because the children could not be unsupervised while they were at work.
Several mothers spoke of the psychological stress placed on their children who have been traumatised by the violence they witnessed in the family home - with one boy showing signs of anxiety that his father would beat his mother. Another woman told how her daughter's car was vandalised after she gave evidence against her mother's abuser.
The study – carried out by Lara Bezzina and Holger Sueraz between August and October – also included the most recent figures of reported cases of domestic abuse in Malta.
Between January and June 2019, Crime Malta says 618 people reported domestic violence to the police, with 1,341 coming forward last year.
The report also found that there was a lack of general information about where women could go to find help when they presented at police stations, as well as a lack of understanding of the complex three-tiered shelter system.
Anyone in need of help is urged to contact Victims Support Malta on 2122 8333 email firstname.lastname@example.org.