In May 2021, Clarissa* was thrown out of her daughter’s home with just a bag of her belongings and the clothes on her back.
“She came home in the evening and told me to give her the keys,” she recalled.
“I did so, and that’s when she told me to leave. She watched me pack my belongings. I left that very same evening.”
Clarissa is one of the many people who have either fallen through the gaps or been rejected by their families.
She will be turning 74 next month.
“It has been very difficult. I used to help take care of my grandchildren, help with the cooking and some cleaning – I did what I could at my age,” she said.
In recent weeks, Malta is hearing more and more about homeless people. About men who sleep in tents, and migrant workers who are forced to sleep on construction sites. And even of infants and young children aged less than four who end up living in shelters.
There are many other roads that lead to destitution. Clarissa’s is one of them.
She recalled how she had gone through a recent separation, and on the day she was kicked out was speaking to a friend on the phone.
“I remember my friend asking me if I would ever go back to my ex-husband, and I said yes, if I had done something wrong in the relationship, I would want him to forgive me,” she said.
Little did she know that her granddaughter recorded the whole conversation and reported it to her mother.
“My daughter was angry. She told me I could pack up my stuff and go back to him. I remember leaving her home late in the evening and not knowing what I would do next.”
A friend of Clarissa’s reached out to YMCA about her, and the next morning the shelter welcomed her with “open arms”.
“I have no words to thank all the work they have done for me,” she said, holding back tears.
“The moment I walked through those doors, I was accepted. This place has given me happiness, courage, and strength. I feel so much love here.”
She said she is now waiting to be accepted into a care home for the elderly.
Clarissa was speaking during a conference held by YMCA Malta on Wednesday, which published a study on homelessness in Malta over the past 10 years.
The report also includes a series of accounts from individuals who sought shelter and support at YMCA Malta, highlighting how people from different backgrounds and experiences have ended up becoming homeless.
Pimped out as a child
At the age of four, Charmaine’s mother used to leave her in the streets, hungry, cold, dirty and begging people for money while her mother ‘worked’.
When she was 10, she was old enough to ‘work’, which involved sleeping with different men. Various reports were filed informing the authorities about the abuse she experienced and eventually she was taken into care.
Charmaine went from one institution to another, and got help from YMCA until she could eventually live on her own.
Today, she is a different person, six months pregnant and excited to be a mother-to-be. But at times, she is still haunted by her past.
The scars of domestic violence
Jane, a 47-year-old mother of two, was a domestic violence victim. Unfortunately, domestic violence shelters could not take her in because her children (14 and 12) were above the age criteria.
Suffering from epilepsy and unable to afford her medication, she ended up being admitted to a psychiatric hospital, while her children stayed with relatives.
When she was more stable, she was referred to YMCA. She is now waiting to be allocated a home by the Housing Authority.
The battle for sobriety
Alan ended up homeless because of his drinking problem. After his wife asked for a divorce, he lost his job and his matrimonial home, and wound up with nowhere to stay.
After six weeks of jumping from one place to another, he settled at a YMCA shelter.
Apart from a roof over his head, he was also enrolled a training programme to get him back on his feet, and attended Alcohol Anonymous meetings.
After a year and two months, and with the support of YMCA, Alan was ready to move out and share an apartment with another resident.
He still attends AA meetings and has remained sober.
Life after prison
A foreigner who had just been released from prison, Jacob went to the YMCA shelter.
The volunteers at the shelter made sure to help him settle down and be optimistic about his future. With the help of YMCA and residential support officers, he managed to get a job and improve his English through lessons.
He is one of the many successful cases the YMCA has experienced, and he still comes to visit the shelter. He is now living independently.
Koji escaped his country as a refugee, a traumatic experience that scarred him. He found himself alone in Malta, with no support system.
After he was moved out of a government-run open centre, Koji became homeless. He reached out to the YMCA, telling them that he was working a 16-hour-a-day job and living in the open, out in a bush.
He moved into Dar Niki Cassar, where he began to work with a professional team to tackle his traumas. Within a short period of time, Koji managed to save money and move out of the shelter. He is now happily rebuilding his life and lives in an apartment while working.
Lisa left her abusive partner who forced her into prostitution. She was referred to the YMCA with her three children, aged nine, three and two. YMCA liased with the Domestic Violence Unit. Eventually, she was able to rent an apartment and live with her children.
*Names have been changed
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