Hands up to help the homeless | The Irish Times, November 22, 2019

Sir, – Reading Ian Elliott’s letter “Hands up to help the homeless” (November 20th) I was reminded of my last visit to the Royal City of Dublin Hospital with Irish Times journalist Catherine Cleary when we were writing my memoir, The Stars Are Our Only Warmth, published by O’Brien Press last year.

I spent many years there as a student nurse and nursing sister. The visit was deeply depressing and a salutary lesson in the dangers of revisiting old haunts. Draughts whisked through the corridors from cracked sash windows. Old wards housed piles of discarded equipment and debris. Wings were cleared out but for my memories of patients, nurses, doctors and domestic staff past. In one ward a huge old zinc saucepan stood collecting drips from a breaking ceiling. It was clear that Baggot Street hospital is an absolute time piece waiting for a consortium to spend millions to transform it into a luxurious place to work or leisure.

The sale of the site of course is hampered presumably by two things – refurbishing an old building is not where building is at in the city at the moment (developers want to crane in new builds on demolished or facaded sites), and the stipulation that a healthcare facility be maintained in the area by the developer. It’s a monument to the greed of the moment we are in.

On leaving after my visit I was speechless and then talking to myself, wondering who would I pick from my large number of contacts who have money to buy this great building and work with a group of committed people to run a home for respite care for people who are homeless or older people needing secure sheltered accommodation.

After a period of reflection near Patrick Kavanagh’s monument I thought about the red tape, bureaucracy, finding suitable caring staff, etc, so I put it on the back burner. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Homeless hostel and local consultation | The Irish Times, November 15, 2019

Sir, – Independent Cllr Mannix Flynn has said it is unacceptable that Ireland’s largest homeless hostel was being opened without any consultation with the business or residential community (“State’s largest homeless hostel to open over café”, News, November 14th). It appears to me that this is the way of doing things in the Ireland of today. The powers that be, that is those who make the decisions, then often wonder why there are complaints, and indeed very often legitimate ones. In this area where we work there is a huge concentration of services for people who are homeless.

From our long experience of working in the field, smaller units of accommodation appear to be much more beneficial, with emphasis on quality rather than on quantity. Many of the isolated people we meet who sleep rough don’t like crowded accommodation, and they are likely to continue sleeping rough, in spite of the efforts of many hard-working people.

All in this country are only too well aware of the lack of housing, but it is surely time that a broader, more inclusive debate takes place around homelessness.

Currently it appears from what we see in the media that decisions are made behind closed doors, and this is not particularly helpful.

A little bit of common sense would indeed be helpful to ensure we avoid the blame game that we have now become so familiar with. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.