Joseph Muscat never knows where he will sleep at night – it could be the airport or a bench in a public garden.
More recently he is sleeping in a tent he was gifted and which he carries around on a makeshift trolley he made out of a pushchair frame.
This trolley is where he keeps his belongings: the insulin he self-injects five times a day because he has Type 1 diabetes and a car battery which he built into the trolley frame to charge the mobile phone he bought after begging for money.
But Joseph, 39, is tired of this life.
He has been living on the streets on and off for four years, except for some “breaks” he had when he was living in homeless shelters, in prison or hospital.
But now he is turned away from shelters because he has caused trouble there.
“No one knows what to do with me,” he says.
Anthony Camilleri, from the YMCA, explains that there are “a handful” of people in similar situations in the country.
Speaking in general terms, he explains that shelters must keep in mind the well-being of all other residents.
There are circumstances when people cannot be accepted – either because they caused trouble in the past or because of the caseload – especially when there are minors and young people living in the shelter.
“We had cases where we had to turn such people away or terminate their stay. We offer them help such as meals and provide them with clothes but we cannot take them in or continue providing them shelter when it becomes detrimental to the other service users.
“On the other hand, on a human level, the reality is that this man is sleeping rough and something needs to be done,” he said.
'A gap in the system'
Camilleri said there is a gap in the system as people who fall out with shelters and experience chronic homelessness do not have a place to stay.
YMCA is working on setting up an emergency shelter that would offer accommodation for such cases until a long-term solution is found.
Born in Gudja, Joseph had a rough upbringing, claiming he was beaten as a child.
“I started taking pills and wine at the age of 11, smack at 13 and eventually coke,” he says.
He did not like school but he attended a trade school.
“I’m good with my hands. What I see, I can do,” he says.
And the contraption he has built on the trolley frame is testimony to this. He created a phone charger into the frame using a car battery and a cigarette lighter, complete with a fuse.
“I have two batteries. A friend charges one while I use the other,” he says.
Joseph recounts how his life spiralled out of control four years ago when he ended up homeless after a relationship breakdown.
Initially, he was taken in by various shelters. Some he had to leave since they had a time-limit on how long people could stay. Other shelters asked him to leave because he caused trouble, which included taking drugs into the shelters, he admits.
He worked a few odd jobs but as he struggled with no money and no home and a drug addiction, he eventually began stealing.
He was jailed for dismantling and stealing the trackers of Bolt scooters and was released from jail in February last year.
He spent the rest of his time in the streets except for a few days recently when he was hospitalised because of his diabetes.
The day he was released from hospital, last week, Joseph slept at the airport. His social worker bought him a tent, which has now become his mobile home.
“I’m tired. Everyone is rejecting me and no one is giving me another chance. I want to work. This is too much,” he says adding that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
At the moment, he lives on donations and begging. “I have to eat five times a day, which is when I take my insulin injections. I’m meant to keep the insulin in a fridge but it is not possible for me,” he says adding that, every day, he heads to the detox centre to take his methadone.
“I’m trying to stop drugs. I’ve been clean for three weeks now. I had relapsed due to personal problems I would rather not go into,” he says.
Joseph does not want to beg any more. “A good day of begging will give you €250 but I can’t keep begging. People keep sending me away. I don’t like it. I have not showered in days.”
“I wish to have a bed and a job. But before I can get a job I need a roof over my head.”