TRUST has been active in a front line capacity providing health and social services for people who are homeless on the streets of Dublin for the last 30 years.
The observations and recommendations made as part of this submission have been informed directly by our hands on work with society’s most marginalized citizens. As well as being residents of this city and involved in local community initiatives to create social inclusion and improve the environment.
1. Alcohol is the drug of choice for many of the people we meet everyday who are increasingly referred to as “street homeless”. In most cases it can also be said that alcohol has literally destroyed their lives and many find themselves accused of anti-social behaviour, some becoming homeless because of anti-social behaviour.
2. We refer to the people we work with as outsiders in the sense that they feel themselves excluded by society. Increased funding in recent years has not addressed their plight and if anything has made things worse as it has sought to sweep them literally under the carpet. “Emergency accommodation” and “wet hostels” have only sought to take them out of the official statistics and not helped them in any meaningful way.
3. Many of the people we work with spend time in prison for anti-social and more serious offences. For many prison brings relief to a difficult and painful existence. Many are addicted to hard drugs.
4. The emphasis now on gathering personal information has reached such a pitch that when somebody applies for anything they can expect to face quite intrusive questionnaires. As already noted this is part of the problem in creating social exclusion for many of the most vulnerable. There is also a fundamental rights issue and it is not being addressed.
1. Early intervention re drugs and alcohol is crucial but cross-department involvement at community level, involving hands-on workers is necessary. Hands-on work is hard, undervalued and usually ignored in the numerous reports produced.
2. Alcohol needs to be recognised as a drug as part of the Drugs Strategy and steps promoted to more actively discourage its abuse. Obvious measures like forbidding all drinks advertising and sponsorship of any kind, especially of sporting events, need to be urgently implemented.
I refer to the Report of the Lord Mayor’s Commission on Crime December 1994, of which I was a member:
“Chapter 2 – General Approach.
2.1 “The general approach of the Commission to its task was that it should not attempt to “reinvent the wheel”. We recognised that there has been an abundance of research studies and reports on all aspects of crime at home and abroad. We saw little purpose in devoting our limited time and other resources to work already undertaken”.
9.7 Licensing laws should be strictly enforced especially in relation to sale of drink to under age drinkers in supermarkets and off-licence premises…………
Sale of methylated and surgical spirits should be strictly controlled, etc.”
Currently the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and general stores from early morning has led to enormous problems in the field of homelessness. Change in legislation led to this, those homeless because of alcoholism now have no respite and those attempting to work with them find their efforts frustrating.”
Anti-social behaviour in some flat complexes and council housing estates is well-documented; removing the individual from the locality is moving the problem on.
“Anti-Social behaviour” needs to be clearly defined as it’s a catchall phrase that can be used and abused and abuse and injustice could result.
Estate management is not ideal and in some cases the impression can be given that all is well.
Intimidation is a serious problem but difficult to quantify and those not in a position to move are unlikely to complain and suffer in silence.
Inter-agency approach is useful but frequent staff changes leads to residents becoming disillusioned and a “them and us” atmosphere results.
Community involvement is rarely appreciated and people give up
Re National Crime Forum Report 1998
Available from IPA
I was also a member of National Crime Forum and recommend reading:
Chapter 8 The Role of Policing
Chapter 13 Inter-Agency Co-Ordination
Chapter 4 Drugs and Crime
Chapter 5 Young People and Crime