The chief executive of Merchants Quay was quoted as saying the Homeless Agency is compounding the already worsening situation of homelessness (Home News, September 30th). Indeed, coming from the largest drug treatment service in the country working with homeless people, such a comment is clearly significant, but we have repeatedly made the same point for some time, and for the very same reasons cited by Tony Geoghegan.
There is nothing new about what he calls the “business-orientated approach” adopted by the Homeless Agency. Words like “outputs”, “throughputs” and “projected outcomes”, as well as “benchmarks” and “performance indicators”, only serve to allow those seeking to drive down costs to forget that they are dealing with very vulnerable human beings.
Indeed, what is even more ironic is that far from saving money, this approach costs much more in the long term, as it simply forces voluntary bodies to move people from one service provider to another to create the false impression that their situation has improved.
The roots of this kind of business-speak run deep. Over 10 years ago at a meeting of the Homeless Initiative, which ultimately became the Homeless Agency, I raised the fact that the people we are working with have mental health issues, addiction problems and often very problematic family backgrounds. I was told such matters could not form part of the discussion! In other words, from the very beginning there has been a complete failure to acknowledge seriously the complex nature of homelessness and why people find themselves sleeping rough on our streets.
The Homeless Agency, and the new merged body it will now form part of, must be forced to acknowledge that we are dealing with real people, with complex needs, and there are often no easy answers. Therefore, seeking to force a one-size-fits-all solution on vulnerable people will not only cause more suffering, but even cost more in the long-term.
– Yours, etc,
Director and co-founder,