Sir, – Autumn always brings renewed focus on the housing of vulnerable people, often with serious mental health difficulties. Having worked through the years since the welcome closure of the large institutions and participated in discussions at many levels including print media, radio and TV, and at a political level about the transfer of services to the NGO sector, I remain unconvinced that we understand the meaning of integration into communities which has to be two way. To me integration is the action of successfully joining a different group of people.
Lately there have been reports in the media about how well some new tenants are settling into the housing provided by organisations working in the sector. This is very much to be welcomed but it is also the case that there is a lot of focus on finance, policy and plans, with little or no discussion on the communities which are hosting these new tenants.
Integration needs to be a two-way street with efforts being made by both the new tenants and the host communities.
We rarely hear of the community work contributing to the successful integration of people often living in struggling environments. The work and efforts of these communities should receive some of the accolades that are given to the organisations involved in housing these vulnerable people.
Some houses around the country are wonderful examples of what is possible, while others stand out in their neglect. Help, if even available, remains 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, exactly the same as the totally inadequate support provided by some State services.
People living in supported housing need support. People in communities, often living with at times unrealistic fears, need support and understanding. Funding agencies and those providing the services need to look beyond the bricks and mortar, the finance, the statistics, the box-ticking and try to understand what integration means in action.
Money and medication alone are not enough to ensure a well-balanced integrated community. – Yours, etc,
Director of Services,
Alice Leahy Trust,