Madam, – Reporting on the “Pathway to Home” policy (August 10th), Jamie Smyth’s findings come as no surprise to some voluntary and statutory agencies working in the field of homelessness.
Those who have pointed out the need for caution and the pitfalls of such a plan – with emphasis on privatisation of services across the board, insufficient support services for the most vulnerable people in society (especially those with mental health problems), and the drive to move people to the suburbs – have been seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Can we now accept that everyone coming from prisons or psychiatric hospitals can return to live in welcoming communities? After all, many people who find themselves homeless are homeless because they didn’t feel welcome in the area they called home.
Anyone walking the streets of Dublin can clearly see there is a problem with emergency hostels being closed (including a longstanding HSE-run hostel for women) at a time when the number of people seeking emergency accommodation is increasing.
It is well documented that every night the emergency services now provide shelter to a significant number of immigrants. These people are being excluded from the debate and are therefore not part of “the plan”. Similarly, those people who have not conformed to the specifications of “the plan” now find themselves more marginalised. The poor could find they are once again going to be left out, or worse still, blamed for the situation we find ourselves in.
Putting a lot of people with problems together – no matter where – without adequate support services, is a recipe for disaster, particularly at a time when privatisation of State services neatly described as “partnership” is widespread.
In the long distant past (which I remember) a lot of people with difficulties were housed together in areas such as Keogh Square, with little or no support. We daily still witness the result of such a lack of vision.
We are now nearing the end of 2010 and unless we accept the above, there will be a lot of people in need of services who become even more marginalised and a lot of people working in the field who become very disillusioned. It is important to realise that the human condition is complex. It might be worth reflecting on the thought that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. – Yours, etc,