Patsy McGarry | Irish Times
Vulnerable people should never be used for political purposes, Alice Leahy of Trust, the Dublin voluntary service for rough sleepers, has said. She also called for the privacy of homeless people to be respected.
On using vulnerable people for political purposes, she said: “I could not be confident this is not happening to a great degree.”
In an address at Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral, she added that “the right to privacy is a right we often refer to, but having one’s families’ details make headlines when someone dies on the streets is all too often ignored. Yet it is, of course, in the public interest to tell the story.
“The stigma attached to homelessness is one of the greatest problems facing people who are homeless, and this also has an impact on their families, who at times can find it impossible to deal with and accept.”
She also argued that “recording people under the influence of drugs, including alcohol, and posting it on social media does, to my mind, raise serious questions about the rights of the individual”.
It was “worth noting, too, that some people want to hide away so as not to have to constantly answer questions as to why they are there and other personal details [sometimes the only possession in their life]”.
The rights of people “to live as they wish without too much intrusion into the lives and rights of others” should not be ignored, while “pressure to conform can edge people to adopt psychiatric labels too easily and, as so often used by non-professionals to address antisocial behaviour or eccentricities, labels can stick”.
Meanwhile, she said, “it behoves all of us working in the field of exclusion to . . . encourage people to see that they could do more to ease their situation and not use them to feed the ‘blame game’ that is so much in vogue currently”.
She warned, too, against the use of words such as client or customer where the socially excluded were concerned.
“These soft words can distance us from people needing help and they also lull us into a false sense of security that people who are homeless are being cared for to the best of society’s abilities,” Ms Leahy said.