Despite recent efforts to expand critical aid services for homeless people, an NGO working in the field is still unable to accept at least half of the referrals it gets every year.
According to statistics provided by YMCA Malta, the organisation has had an average of 511 cases referred to it every year since 2016. The majority of the cases, however, end up falling through the cracks due to limits imposed by operational costs.
The number of supported cases hovered at an average of 28 per cent over the past five years. Of the 520 cases referred to YMCA Malta by this September, just 20 per cent were supported directly, with another 11.3 per cent managing to transition to an independent living arrangement.
“The addition of two new services, Y communal house and Y visible, definitely happened because of an increase in the need for services,” YMCA Malta CEO Anthony Camilleri said.
“The drop in supported cases is because of rent. People took longer to move to completely independent living, especially with low salaries and high rent prices,” he added.
YMCA’s Dar Nikki Cassar can house up to 34 people and Y communal house can support another 14 people.
Besides offering psychosocial support, education and direct aid, such as food and clothing, the organisation also reaches out to citizens living rough.
The number of cases shot up by 44.6 per cent
“Between August 2019 and September 2020, YMCA helped 59 cases to move on independently within the private sector without putting the stress on the Housing Authority through alternative means of housing like sharing,” Camilleri said.
This year’s load of referrals is already above the five-year average, a full two months before the year ends.
The figures provided demonstrate volatile fluctuations over the past three years.
The number of cases shot up by 44.6 per cent, from 395 to 886 referrals, from 2018 to 2019.
According to an index that was compiled by property market.com.mt, the average asking price for a one-bedroom studio apartment stands at €752 a month and the rate for a standard one-bedroomed apartment can run up to €952.
Factoring in this year’s cost of living adjustments, the minimum wage for full-time employment is set at €727 a month and a worker in that pay bracket is deemed to be unable to afford a one-bedroomed studio apartment without sharing.
Even though rental prices throughout 2020 have fallen because of COVID-19’s chilling effect on economic activity and tourism, low-income earners still seem to be struggling to keep up with basic living expenses.
YMCA Malta, along with organisations such as Caritas and the Foodbank, regularly raise awareness on how the country is facing the issue of “hidden homelessness” and have been consistently seeking new ways to increase funding and the availability of services.
Readers wishing to help the organisation can visit www.ymcamalta.org/365.