Though no precise statistic exists on the number of homeless in the Maltese Islands, official data which was recently tabled in parliament shows that the incidence of such cases has more than trebled in the last decade.

It transpires that the number of calls handled by State-run helpline 179 on issues related to homelessness have gone from 158 in 2013 to more than 500.

The matter was recently raised by Opposition MP Ivan Bartolo who enquired on the magnitude of the problem, asking for the number of persons with no fixed place to reside. In a terse reply Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon produced a table outlining the number of “genuine” calls received by the 179 support line, between 2013 and 2022, on this particular delicate matter. The statistic also outlines the percentage number of calls on this issue out of the total cases handled. While in 2013 these amounted to 2% by 2020 the rate had spiked to 5% (645 calls) with a marginal drop in the following two years though the rate remained stable at 4%.

According to research carried out by the YMCA in 2022, the majority of people residing in shelters where Maltese 52%, with 26% being foreigners from central and north African countries. The average age of these individuals was 37.5. Financial problems were cited as the reason for ending up homeless by a third of respondents, followed by mental and psychological issues (25%) and domestic violence (24%).

Apart from the obvious issue of accommodation, persons with no fixed address encounter problems when applying for a job and certain service from the State.

The issue is rather complex, as not all those who are homeless  may necessarily end up living on the streets. Consequently, there is the risk that the problem remains hidden as those directly involved may be residing in shelters run by NGOs’, or staying temporarily with relatives or friends.  Othe circumstances include people awaiting release from institutions (hospital, prison, etc).