Sir, – Why was there such surprise that a huge number of people presented for emergency beds, not on the “system” and not known to the many outreach teams? This came as no surprise to many of us working in the field.

Increasing numbers of people, mainly young men who never thought they would end up homeless, now find themselves on the streets. We know there are people hidden away in squats, cars, bushes, tents, etc, because they call to us daily, with many coming from outside this jurisdiction. Some people feel the pressure to conform or fit in, but wish to remain private and therefore are unable to access accommodation as a consequence. The challenges some people pose have been downplayed. Building relationships with people requires a lot of time and understanding. Sometimes the only way society can cope with challenging behaviour is by locking people away in prison or psychiatric institutions. A number of people were sectioned last week “for their own safety”. Sectioning someone has huge implications. Who would wish to see poverty or exclusion in other forms medicalised or people locked away if even for a short period and all that that implies?

Our nation’s history of dealing with challenging people and behaviours in the recent past has been well documented and condemned widely. This could well be repeated if a broad-based debate does not take place, sooner rather than later, about people’s rights in this area. There are many people who have great difficulty coping with life and some people have mental health issues. Other people clearly have a different way of viewing the world and that should be respected.

Is it ever possible to protect people from themselves? – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Bride Road,

Dublin 8.