Emer Costello, MEP
Liberty Hall
Dublin 1

18th January 2013

Dear Emer

Thank you for your correspondence re. European Aid to the most Deprived (MDP) – a welcome positive E.U. initiative.

TRUST was founded in 1975 – see our website www.trust-ireland.ie for more information. Our work would not be possible without the enormous generosity and support of people from all walks of life, rich and poor, and even very poor. We have always said that in an ideal world there would be no need for TRUST – but of course this is not an ideal world.

“To be without a home is to be suspect. The homeless are easy targets. Their bodily integrity is constantly at risk. Their lives are an offence against the sacred canons of private property and consumerism. Their privacy is regularly intruded on as part of the price of being statistics in the poverty industry; their painful experiences are reduced to sociological research data. The true test of a civilised community is how people at the margins are treated. Not only must individual liberties be defended, but society should be educated and sensitised towards a broader vision of life and living. In an area dominated by the culture of individual acquisition, homelessness may have important lessons for us all.” – Dan Sullivan, then President of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, describing what it means to be homeless in Ireland in a piece I asked him to write in 1995 for a book I co-authored with Ann Dempsey “Not Just a Bed for the Night” published by Marino Books in 1995.

The service we set up was the first of its type, and has been used as a model for services here and overseas. We are sandwiched between St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christchurch Cathedral in the Liberties area of Dublin. We work in the basement of the Iveagh Hostel and are grateful to the Iveagh Trust who only charge us a nominal rent.

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.

Homelessness is a complex issue, not just about housing alone. Mental ill health, addiction etc. all play a part in the world of homelessness, and in some cases undetected problems from childhood. The latter point is likely to continue with cutbacks across the board, especially in the areas of healthcare and education. The lack of services for people most in need in the community, especially struggling communities is all too obvious.

Homeless people we meet from right across Europe and Ireland tell us there is no need for anyone to be hungry in Dublin due to the proliferation of Food Centres in the city and now springing up throughout the country. A sad reflection on the times we live in.

I have decided to confine my comments to the important issue of food alone:-

• While the determinants of food poverty are obvious, how to address it is the real issue. The points below are based on my lifetimes work in the wider community and our daily work in TRUST with people who are homeless.

• Detecting and assessing need in this sensitive area, highly expensive research, reports, while useful in some instances could be avoided by working with schools, particularly in disadvantaged areas and liaising with Public Health Nurses, GPs, Gardai, Church Groups, Meals on Wheels etc. and Muintir na Tire in rural Ireland.

• Education is essential in schools, even from pre-school age right up to 3rd level, this to include valuing and understanding food, budgeting, cookery etc. Home Economics should be compulsory. This programme should be interesting and creative and promoted in all schools.

• Community based adult education projects using groups like Irish Country Women’s Association and the skills of older people in other groups would be useful in this area.

• Use of the media, especially t.v., with emphasis on the preparation and cooking of good, basic nutritious food rather than expensive food promoted by celebrity chefs.

• Large supplies of food given to bodies to distribute, while alleviating immediate distress will continue to perpetuate the problem if the above issues are not addressed.

• Large umbrella groups can at times give a good overall view of the situation. The downside is that small groups working closely with and in communities can be overlooked, often because they are not in receipt of Government Aid. Their work may be more person centred and less bureaucratic.

While I and my colleagues continue to be appalled at the widespread waste of precious food and other resources including financial in the voluntary / statutory sector, I hope these points may be of some assistance in the preparation of this very important project.

Yours sincerely,

Alice Leahy
Director & Co-Founder