This letter was submitted to Commissioner Hammarberg in my capacity as Director & Co-Founder of TRUST

Commissioner for Human Rights
Thomas Hammarberg
Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Council of Europe
F-67075 Strasbourg, Cedex

1st June 2011

Dear Commissioner Hammarberg

I welcome the opportunity to meet you on your short visit to our country.
I am a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission and work on a daily basis at the coalface with people who find themselves homeless.

I would like to bring to your attention some areas of concern:-

  • The gap between those working at the coalface and decision-makers is wide;
  • Umbrella groups are not representative of the wider community and Quangos have allowed the decision-makers to distance themselves from those working at the coalface;
  • State funded agencies have allowed unprecedented outsourcing of services to our most vulnerable people to the voluntary/private sector;
  • No research has been done to indicate financial savings, if any, in this area but more important, quality of service and accountability;
  • Bureaucracy and red-tape have stifled initiative and debate, and as a result important questioning voices have been stifled;
  • Definitions of homelessness give no indication of the complexities of the human condition;
  • A large number of people who have been in State Institutions, eg. psychiatric hospitals and prisons, end up homeless, a number of whom at a very young age in the care of the State;
  • Many of the above people come from disadvantaged areas around the country;
  • Adequate community services have not been put in place to care for people discharged from psychiatric hospitals;
  • Access to health services, particularly for children and older people is a major concern. The embargo on recruitment of staff has had a huge impact on the quality of services, and as a result, the rights of individuals have been greatly eroded. Some of these issues were highlighted in a PrimeTime special programme aired by RTE on Monday 30th May 2011.

The information Update from The Homeless Agency dated December 2010 acknowledges that the numbers of people sleeping rough in the Dublin area has increased over the previous 12 months. [It is impossible to put a precise figure on the number of Non-Irish Nationals who are homeless in Dublin/Ireland as they are presenting at different agencies and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that many are not presenting at agencies because of fear of repatriation or denial of a service.]

We have raised the concerns of TRUST with:-

  • The Director of The Homeless Agency in May 2008 (see attached)
  • Mr. Michael Finneran, Minister for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas at a meeting in May 2009 – (see pg. 4 of follow-up letter attached).

A large number of people currently homeless in Ireland do not meet the requirements of the Habitual Residence Condition – while entitled to shelter it is not always possible to access same. For example, in February of 2011 we had people from 25 different countries using services of TRUST:-

Ireland , Romania, Mauritius, Grenada, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Chile, Hungary, Spain, Moldova, USA, Ethiopia, Russia, Afghanistan, Portugal, Algeria, Morocco, UK, Italy, Turkey, Tunisia.

In April 2011 we had people from the above list as well as people from France, Malaysia and Bulgaria.

If a Human Rights Institution is to be effective it must be accessible to all and clearly independent of political influence.

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet with us and continued success.

Yours sincerely,

Alice Leahy
Director & Co-Founder
Member of Irish Human Rights Commission

TRUST is a non denominational, non party political body providing health and social services for people who become homeless since 1975, not in receipt of funds from The Homeless Agency. TRUST is also committed to sharing the insights gained in its everyday work through education and advocacy.     See our web site:  The philosophy of TRUST is based on two central principles: the recognition of every individual’s right to be treated as an autonomous and unique human being; the need to restore the dignity of individuals whom society has labelled deviant and undesirable.