– Anyone walking through the streets of our capital at night time or early morning will notice bodies huddled together keeping warm in sleeping bags or sleeping bags hanging out to dry on railings (Dail report and Dail Sketch, November 28th). Having worked in the field of homelessness for 40 years, I can vouch that the situation is worse than ever before. When we opened the entrance to our tiny centre on Thursday morning, 19 people were waiting. They had slept out in tents, squats, parks and doorways in sleeping bags or cardboard. A shower, a change of clothes, feet treated and a hot drink helped them face another day on the streets. This is all part of our holistic health service provided by Trust which is in existence since 1975 and not in receipt of State funding, even though State agencies refer people to us. These men and women came from Dublin city, rural Ireland, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania and Russia. Our limited space meant others had to wait outside. Last month people from 26 different countries availed of our service. On seeing the Draft Homeless Action Plan Framework for Dublin Region 2014 – 2016 on September 26th, I made a detailed submission, based on our experience, to our 50 elected Dublin city councillors. The response was as expected – depressing. Only eight replied and four of those just said “Thanks”. Walking around the city can give some indication of what’s happening out there, but only in a very limited way – so too sleeping out for one night. I am not aligned to any political party, however I must concur with our Taoiseach’s comment about the woman who slept outside the Dail in the 1970s. Yes, everyone tried to help her. She reluctantly moved into a hostel for two nights only during a very cold spell, coaxed to do so by ourselves and the gardai in Pearse Street. She was well known to people in that area, including the very caring staff in the then South Anne Street Post Office. Incidentally, she kept her electric kettle hidden behind the altar in Clarendon Street Church to the consternation of many. She highlighted how complex the issue of homelessness is and the value of building up relationships over a long period of time. Christmas-time concern for homeless people is welcome and predictable, however this is an all-year problem. Many people require emergency accommodation even though there is a reluctance on the part of planners to accept that fact. Many people, especially families on the housing list and whose only problem is housing, should have their needs met. Local authorities have an obligation in this regard, as local authority housing stock has been allowed to deteriorate over the years. Unfortunately for the people we meet on a daily basis who are homeless, the issues are very complex, and not about housing alone. All Government departments, politicians and planners need to be aware of this fact.
– Yours, etc, ALICE LEAHY Director & Co-Founder, Trust, Bride Road, Dublin 8.