A total of 1,407 people had Valletta registered as their last known residence before ending up homeless, according to recent data.
A YMCA Malta study revealed that between 2012 and 2022, the shelter opened its doors to 4,481 people, 31.4 per cent of who had Valletta registered as their place of residence.
Following Valletta, the most common locality listed by people seeking shelter are Birkirkara, Ħamrun, Cospicua, and Msida.
The study, ‘Homeless Human Evolution’ published last week, carried out a quantitative and retrospective analysis of homelessness in Malta over the past 10 years. The data is based on the figures and information supplied by people who sought shelter at YMCA Malta.
The shelter takes note of the place of residence indicated on people’s identification card when they first seek shelter. The report highlights that this does not mean that the person is still residing in said location and may have moved from one place to another, without changing the address on their identification card.
The second locality with the highest number of people seeking shelter is Birkirkara (3.9 per cent), a far stretch when compared to the figure for Valletta. A total of 174 people previously resided or lived in Birkirkara before seeking help from the YMCA and over 160 people had their residence indicated as being Ħamrun.
A total of 156 people coming from both for Cospicua and Msida sought shelter with the YMCA.
The figures tally with recent statistics by the NSO, which show that 22.5 per cent of people living in the southern harbour region and 18.4 per cent of people living in the northern harbour region of Malta were at risk of poverty in 2020.
Cospicua and Valletta form part of the southern harbour region, while the northern harbour region includes Birkirkara, Ħamrun and Msida.
“Behind every number, there is a traumatic experience that cannot be explained in words, it must be lived to really comprehend the suffering of an individual that becomes homeless,” YMCA Malta CEO Anthony Camilleri told Times of Malta.
“We need to understand the need for national statistics as this data is only of clients we have worked with but, with just our data, there is an urgent need to safeguard those that are left behind. We need to narrow the gap between the rise of living costs and the rental market.”
People aged 18-34 becoming homeless
The YMCA data shows that the majority of people between the ages of 18-34 are the ones becoming homeless, a figure which is reflected also in the data regarding the previous residencies of those who end up roofless.
Out of the 1,407 who previously resided in Valletta, over 260 (18.75 per cent) people are between the ages of 18 and 24, followed by the 25 to 34 age group.
Birkirkara and Cospicua also saw a majority of young people ending up homeless.
Close to 53 per cent of Maltese, over and above the 47 per cent of non-Maltese, have been seeking accommodation over the past 10 years.
Despite this, in recent years, the percentage of Maltese seeking shelter at YMCA decreased, a nod to the growing foreign population in Malta. According to the census data, the foreign population increased by over 95,000 people.
Almost half – 47 per cent – of non-Maltese sought shelter during the past decade. The majority of non-Maltese nationalities seeking shelter are Somali, followed by Libyan, Eritrean, British and Sudanese.
Invest in NGOs and shelters
The study also delved into the reasons why referrals are not being accepted into YMCA shelters. Figures for the years 2018-2022 show that the main reason for people not being accepted is due to the shelters being full.
YMCA Malta runs three residential shelters. Dar Niki Cassar, which can take in 34 individuals, Y Communal Home, a shelter for 16 individuals, and Y Studio Flat, which is an independent residence, where two individuals can reside.
In the span of four years, over 400 people were not accepted into YMCA because the shelters were full.
“We need to invest in NGOs that are providing sheltered accommodations to continue providing such services,” Camilleri said.
“The cost is sometimes unbearable. It has also become very difficult to fundraise, considering NGOs are based on volunteering and donations.”
Other main reasons a person is refused is due to active substance abuse and consideration for the safety of other residents. Last year, 18 were turned away on such grounds – the same number the year before and 22 in 2020.