Professor James McCormick, Trustee of TRUST and its Chairman, also the former head of the Dept. of Community Health, TCD.

The word homelessness sounds self-explanatory, but in relation to people who either sleep rough or use hostels and night shelters, homelessness is merely a symptom of a more deep-seated set of problems. For this reason, the solution is more complex and difficult than the provision of housing.

If these problems have any common factor it has to do with a failure to become, or to remain, a part of the wider community. People who are homeless have often rejected the conventional values of society or have been themselves rejected. It is not surprising that many have been in prison or mental hospitals or both. In a society, which is intolerant, imprisonment or admission to a mental hospital is the usual response. In the view of most people, these ‘unfortunates’ are failures, failures who are largely to blame for their own misfortunes, failures whose very existence is an embarrassment and shame.

The reality is, of course, different. Once set on a downward path (often as a result of things over which they had no control) such people may readily enter a spiral which ensures that they become more and more distanced from their fellow citizens and have less and less in common with those who have loving families, houses and regular income. They have little reason to trust other, who treat them with disdain. They have little to look forward to and little to remember with pleasure.

It is not surprising that there are no simple solutions to their problems. The provision of a flat does not solve their difficulty. What is needed perhaps is a slow and often difficult process, which has as it’s main objective the restoration of a sense of personal worth. That is why the philosophy of TRUST centres, not on the important medical, nursing and social service, which it provides, but upon the restoration of human dignity to those whom the rest of the world appears to despise.

This takes time, patience, and a realisation that rewards may be meagre and delayed. Nonetheless, the rewards are real and, although primarily valuable to the individual, are also valuable to the community, in that the work of TRUST makes a contribution to keeping people out of institutions.