Madam, – The one good thing that emerged clearly from your report on the surveys of homelessness in Dublin is the unequivocal acknowledgment of the complexity of the problem, and the critical importance of support services (Home News, December 15th). However, it is important to stress, as we insist on doing at every opportunity, there are real people behind the statistics, and almost without exception they are extremely vulnerable, and often broken by their experiences.
Therefore, one would imagine that when they seek help, they would be treated with the great sensitivity and respect to which they are entitled. However, to obtain even basic services people who are homeless have to provide an excessive amount of extremely personal information. Because of this, some will not even seek to access services.
Based on our first-hand experience of this, we made a complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner, which was upheld, and a reform process was instigated to reduce the invasive and intrusive nature of the harvesting of information from those least able to object (Home News, July 21st, 2008). However, any chance of reform will be reversed if Dublin City Council’s decision to outsource housing support services is implemented. Indeed, the tender documentation compelled us to make another complaint to the Data Commissioner, (Home News, November 30th, 2009) which is being investigated at present, because the very process which we objected to originally, would, if anything, become more serious, and pose an even greater threat to the most vulnerable.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that everyone is entitled to dignity and respect. As your report makes very clear, people who find themselves without a home on our streets have already had their sense of dignity and self-respect shorn away.
The least we can do, when they seek help, is to avoid further undermining them through unnecessarily invasive and intrusive interviews, that in some cases seem unwittingly designed to erase any shred of self-respect they may have left.
– Yours, etc,