By Padraig O’Morain
September 12, 1989

Every morning,from half past seven, people begin to arrive at TRUST, located in the basement of the Iveagh Hostel in the liberties of Dublin. The earliest arrivals include men and women who are very withdrawn or who have other difficulties in dealing with people.

All come to seek a medical service from an organisation which has the objective, not just of bandaging wounds, but of doing the job in a way which helps to restore a measure of self esteem and dignity to people labelled as undesirable.

Almost all the clients of TRUST live in hostels or sleep rough but to say that they are homeless is to over simplify their situation. Some “increasing numbers” Alice Leahy says, have been discharged from psychiatric hospitals in the name of community care. Others are continuing a life time of institutionalisation: from an orphanage to the Army to the hostel or, in the case of one of the many I met, from an industrial school to borstal to jail to hostel.

There are some who have lived in hostels for so long that to describe them as homeless is incorrect because the hostel is their home. Another man I met has lived in the same hostel for 50 years and is quite happy there.

Other people who come to it pass through alcoholism. I met one young man who, after a prolonged blackout, is frightened of what alcohol is doing to his mind and is trying to stay off it, spending much of the day reading in a public library, sleeping in a hostel dormitory and planning to return to Alcoholics Anonymous.

But there are also people who become dependent on alcohol or develop depression only after another cause has made them homeless.

There is no simple way of categorising them and consequently there is no simple answer to their problems. Put them into a flat in a deprived community -where flats for such people are generally provided- and they may withdraw into themselves because they are often afraid of meeting new people. They maybe unable to change a plug or a light bulb and they may be vulnerable to attack.

Many haven’t got a medical card -they cannot cope with any level of bureaucracy. They may be too shy to go near the casualty department of a hospital on their own. One man had no income for a time because his fear of crowds kept him away from the employment exchange.

The people who come to TRUST suffer not only the normal maladies of people of their age but further problems caused by their lifestyles. Consequently, many people, come to TRUST to wash and shave, to have leg ulcers treated and to get diet supplements.

But they also get what may well be the only warm human contact they will experience that day or that week. To spend a morning in TRUST, among people who, elsewhere, we would avoid if not despise, is to come away with the impression of having been in a place of happiness and dignity. There is nothing complicated about how it is done but there is no formula for it either. There is no labelling of people. There are no winos, down-and-outs or NFAs (No Fixed Abodes) in TRUST, only other people.

Padraig O’Morain

The Irish Times