Sir, – Thanks to Joe Humphreys (“Dermot Rooney left prison with nowhere to go. Days later he was dead”, News Agenda, September 17th) for once again highlighting the problems of vulnerable people who end up in prison. In this instance, the aftercare and prison discharge systems show a glaring gap that needs to be addressed. However, it is worth noting that many of these problems might not arise if appropriate accommodation and healthcare were available. Issues addressed at an earlier stage would ensure that vulnerable people do not end up prison in the first instance.

Pressure to achieve success and measure outcomes can at times blind us from the pain of living for those who find themselves on the outside. Labelling, too, has the capacity to ignore the human condition.

Dermot Rooney was known to us in TRUST over many years, calling from time to time, his courtesy at all times and quiet way of dealing with the world his trademark.
On his last visit one day as we were about to leave, the smell of burning wood off his clothes was suffocating. Black from smoke, he was almost unidentifiable apart from his unforgettable blue eyes. He told us he had spent the previous nights and days sitting over a fire.

For too long people known to us who are labelled homeless and mentally ill find that a bed in prison is all too often the only one available to them. This is a problem that needs to be addressed realistically, not in isolation from other services and not just when people are in prison.

Dermot once said to us when we advised him on seeking accommodation, “I would need a lawyer because we are asked so many questions”. Sadness is the word to describe how we felt on hearing of his death from his sister. May his gentle soul rest in peace.

– Yours, etc,
Director & Co-Founder
Bride Road, Dublin 8.