“This is an invitation to everyone to stand with the outsider as nothing will change until we start to make everyone feel wanted” : Alice Leahy

Picture shows Alice presenting Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD with a copy of the TRUST DVD launched as part of the TRUST National Project – Building Trust in the Community.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern T.D. and Pat Kenny of RTE helped TRUST, the social and health service for people who are homeless, today (Tues. 22 November, 2005) launch what Director Alice Leahy described as a very ambitious national project to give people the chance to help “to change attitudes towards those who are homeless, and to make those who are excluded and outsiders in Irish society feel wanted”.

Building Trust in the Community is an initiative by TRUST in association with The Irish Times and is sponsored by ESB Electric Aid and Alice Leahy said that it seeks to build on the considerable work already going on in many communities across Ireland by people who make time for those who are excluded.

The project was created in response to the many calls received by TRUST from people in different parts of the country especially to help answer the question: what can I do? Alice said the project aims above all to help people understand the nature of homelessness and why TRUST asks people to consider those who find themselves homeless on the street as outsiders. They feel alienated and unwanted and find it hard to cope and unless we recognise that they need more than accommodation nothing will change she added.

People who are homeless on the street probably experience the most extreme form of social exclusion and in that sense are the most identifiable outsiders in our midst. But those who speak out on their behalf in a society that seems to place inordinate emphasis on conformity risk finding themselves excluded as well. That experience also led Alice Leahy to write “Thirty Years Working on the Outside” a paper which is published today as part of the project, highlighting how little or nothing has changed for the outsider since TRUST was founded in 1975.

“Some people find it hard to understand why we say things are worse for the outsider in Ireland in 2005 than it was in 1975 when TRUST was founded. We may have achieved much material success but many of us are equally less tolerant of those who cannot keep pace and fall by the wayside. The price of accommodation has soared and it has forced some people out onto the street but there exclusion is also due to our increasing inability as a society to find space and understanding for those who cannot cope and fit in,” Alice Leahy said.

There is a collective deception that is all is well when clearly it is not and everyone is expected to be successful and not let the mask fall she said noting that society has always had a good percentage of people who “go against the grain.”

“We have learned a great deal from the people who come into to us everyday and this project is an attempt to share that understanding with everyone. People end up on the street because they become cut off and alienated from the world. They need a place to stay, but they also need to be treated as people, with dignity and respect, and made to feel wanted again. That will not happen unless more of us are prepared to stand with them and this is hopefully what this project will help people to do,” Alice Leahy said.

BUILDING TRUST IN THE COMMUNITY – THE PROJECT

Alice Leahy said TRUST is extending an invitation to any group to apply for a free DVD, called Building Trust in the Community, as a starting point of what is hoped will grow, from the ground up, into a national debate on the way we treat the outsider in Irish society. Each group that receives one is asked to host an informal showing and a discussion about the issues raised before passing on it on to another group.

“We want to create an information or awareness chain reaction and ensure that the one thousand DVD.s we have produced will be seen and used by at least 100,000 people. It is only takes one person to make a decision to help others to make a real difference for someone, but if more people do that the lives of many of those on the outside will be transformed. This is not an unrealistic ambition but a very real opportunity to make a big difference for those who feel no one cares,” Alice Leahy said.

Any “group” can apply for a free DVD including community groups, women’s groups, branches of trade unions, Rotary, Chambers of Commerce, adult education groups, religious communities, etc. The secretary or representative of a group just needs to email info@trust-ireland.ie or write to TRUST, Bride Road, Dublin 8, undertaking to host a viewing and discussion and then pass it on to another group after they let us have their ideas and suggestions.

“The most important aspect from our point of view is what people think, especially the reaction, and the ideas and suggestions that emerge from the discussion. We are asking people to ensure they email us back their comments so that we too can learn more and share them with everyone else who participates. If we are going to fundamentally alter society’s attitude towards the outsider we must be prepared to be open with each other and recognise that this will be a very challenging process,” Alice Leahy said.

In addition TRUST is also making available through its web site additional resources, drawing on its experience, to help people consider what it means to be an outsider. These resources include the full text of Alice’s paper Thirty Years Working on the Outside which can be downloaded as well as a radio documentary called The Outsiders which will also be launched and broadcast on the TRUST web site in December.

“We are a very small agency with a focus on our hands on work. We have developed this project around the web site because it allows us to maintain our personal focus on the people who come in to us everyday, but at the same time share the insights and experience we have gained,” Alice Leahy said emphasising that using the web has allowed TRUST despite its small size to reach out to the country as a whole and garner the kind of feedback that can help mobilise real change for the outsider in Irish society.

TRUST is a non denominational, non party political body that provides health and social services for people who become homeless. TRUST is also committed to sharing the insights gained in its everyday work through education and advocacy. More information about TRUST can be found on our web site: www.trust-ireland.ie

Note to editor

The DVD Building Trust in the Community is being made available free to any group in the community that requests one because TRUST secured sponsorship for this initiative. However, we are also making it available to anyone who requests a copy at the nominal price of €10, as this is not a fund raising project and only covers handling and related charges, on the basis that they will also share it hopefully with family, friends and work colleagues and let us have some feedback including their ideas and suggestions which we are requesting from the groups that get the DVD for free. As TRUST has already made videos available free to schools as part of the TRUST National Art Competition and Essay Competition, both on the theme of the outsider, it is not able to make the DVD available free on this occasion. However, given the nominal price of the DVD it is hoped that those interested will not be deterred from acquiring a copy. Copies of the DVD can be obtained by sending a cheque for €10 to TRUST, Bride Road, Dublin 8.

The paper “Thirty years of TRUST” written to coincide with this launch can be found here.

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