To help people understand the pain we must adopt new word to replace the label “homeless” : Alice Leahy, Addressing conference in Dublin, Homes for All

“We need a radical review of services for people who find themselves homeless on the street if we are serious about tackling the suffering they endure”, Alice Leahy, Director & Co-Founder of TRUST said, addressing a conference – HOMES FOR ALL – this weekend noting that “the first priority must be to stop using one name to describe everyone without accommodation which is only serving to perpetuate profound misunderstanding about the nature of the problem.”

“Society finds it convenient to simply describe everyone in that situation as homeless when those who are living on the street in a real sense are “outsiders”. They need more than simply accommodation because they find themselves on the street because they cannot fit in for a myriad of reasons,” ALICE LEAHY said.

Condemning the failure to respond with a sense of urgency when three young homeless people were found dead over a forty eight hour period recently ALICE LEAHY said one of the really worrying aspects of the problem is that far from addressing the problem policy makers seem only interested in nurturing a collective deception that all is well when clearly it is not.

Saying that all politicians have been guilty like everyone of us at times in a careless use of language in describing the unique alienation of those on the street, ALICE LEAHY said noting that language is important if we are to build a society in which there are no outsiders.

“All politicians from all political certainly have a responsibility to lead but if we accept that those forced onto the street are outsiders then it is clear that society as a whole has a responsibility to change as well. You can only have outsiders when people do not feel welcome. If we are serious about ending the suffering on our streets, in addition to a radical review of policy, we also need some initiative to start making Ireland a genuinely inclusive community as well”, ALICE LEAHY said.

“The Government’s current strategy appears to be more focused on the effective obliteration of the once prophetic voices in defence of the outsiders on our streets instead of reforming and expanding the State’s own social and welfare services. The emphasis is on seeking to expand the voluntary sector, once staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, to undertake services that were previously provided exclusively by the State,” ALICE LEAHY said.

ALICE went on: “When the organisations that once offered support and understanding are increasingly forced to operate according to the performance indicators and management philosophy by the State without the necessary resources, where does that leave the outsiders in our midst – those who cannot cope and find great difficulty dealing with that system in the first place?”

“Some suggest this is a form of privatisation and “partnership”, however, it is more correctly described as a form of “nationalisation” of the voluntary sector because it effectively silences once prophetic voices in defence of the most vulnerable in Irish society. Many well meaning people are forced to try to make good for the State’s inadequate response and as a society we see the most marginalised further alienated.”

Describing the priority of policymakers as simply to “move people on” ALICE LEAHY said that far from solving the problem it simply meant postponing any chance that the real problems of the people concerned will ever be addressed as well as costing the taxpayer much more in the long term.

ALICE LEAHY’s address was part of TRUST’s ongoing awareness programme to promote greater understanding of the needs of the outsiders in Irish society and the conference was organised by the Labour Party in Dublin South Central.