Taskforce on Homelessness
The announcement that incoming Taoiseach Brian Cowen has set up a Taskforce to look at homelessness in Dublin (The Irish Times, May 1st) is welcome – only because at last the Government has recognised there is a developing crisis because of the failure to provide adequate housing and support services. This week’s RTÉ Prime Time programme showed in a compelling way what everyone involved in this area has known for some time: there is a real shortage of accommodation and on any night of the week many people seeking shelter are left to sleep rough.
We have no confidence the proposed taskforce will make any difference unless the Ministers’ involved are prepared to go out and see for themselves conditions on the ground. If Mr Cowen and his colleagues are serious, they must talk both to people who are homeless, and to the front-line workers trying to help them.
Present policy is geared only to clear the streets of the visible signs of homelessness, even if that means putting people into wholly inadequate accommodation. Many people find themselves on the streets not just because they are without accommodation, but because of addiction, mental health problems and family breakdown. They are moved on from one service provider to another in a system that is insufficiently funded and organised to provide them with any real help, and represents nothing more than a poor attempt to keep the streets clear at all costs, regardless of the consequences.
We would welcome the chance to show Mr Cowen and his colleague just how wasteful and dysfunctional is the system over which they are presiding, and how cruel and inhumane it can be to those least able to cope.
– Yours, etc,