TRUST, since 1975, has provided a befriending, social and health service to people who are homeless. This service was initiated after the publication of a report “Medical Care for the Vagrant” in 1974 (seems like an age ago) and holding clinics in hostels. For many years a doctor and nurse team visited hostels, people sleeping rough and ran a clinic – I understand that now after 25 years this model is being looked at here, having been copied abroad for many years.
In recent years we have confined our daily work to our own centre. Since more finance became available more personnel have been working in the field of homelessness but the problems we see on a daily basis are the same – increasing due in most cases to society’s inability to accept and address the complexities of the human condition.
The philosophy of TRUST is based on two central principles:
- The recognition of every individuals right to be treated as an autonomous and unique human being;
- The need to restore the dignity of individuals whom society has labelled deviant and undesirable.
Each morning we meet up to 30 men and women suffering from various forms of neglect, malnutrition, skin conditions, TB, AIDS, carcinoma, heart conditions, addictions, mental health problems and numerous untreated chronic medical conditions.
People discharged from hospital with no G.P., unfilled prescriptions and frequently no accommodation or just a bed for the night. Many people needing urgent psychiatric treatment or in-patient treatment for alcoholism, which cannot be assessed. At least three people we know who were homeless have died in this city within the last few weeks – just another statistic. Many have been researched ad nauseam; things don’t change for them, researchers get massive funding and ultimately promotion. “I have nothing to live for” is a well-voiced comment here and one that has a bearing on the health of the individual and indeed the health service. We also keep hundreds of people a year healthy and out of hospital etc., by our hands-on preventative work which is unquantifiable.
Secondly as an individual and citizen of this State, I do have something to say by virtue of the fact that I am alive at this time in creation, and I believe that the form I have just filled in is unlikely to go to the core of the issue unless we can link in with an ability to reflect on the human needs of all. It has become too easy to ignore the very simple words but powerful expressions of pain, dirt, hunger, hate, hope, despair, poverty, violence and silence.
I am a highly qualified and experienced nurse (see website www.trust-ireland.ie) as is my colleague Geraldine McAuliffe, both having worked in a health service we were proud to be part of, we continue to work in the health service but now find it increasingly difficult to motivate others who are disillusioned, most working in undervalued work.
The voice of the nurse working on the ground, who can be a midwife, welcoming a new life to the world or holding the hand of someone leaving it, is a voice we need to hear more of if we are to keep in touch with humanity.
In our health service as indeed in others, the messenger becomes the problem rather than the advocate and ultimately can be easily pushed aside with a suitable label to reinforce exclusion.
It is this exclusivity that has led to the situation we as a nation find ourselves in and history may well judge us in the same way as it is currently judging those who provided child care earlier this century.
Finally, my colleague, Geraldine McAuliffe and I, and indeed our Trustees, would like to invite you to visit us here some morning and if this is not suitable we would like to meet you to discuss our views.