Hope and homelessness | The Irish Times, January 24th, 2020

Sir, – I wrote to The Irish Times in the 1970s with my then-colleagues Dr David Magee and the late social worker John Long: “The buildings in which these men and women are housed belong to another age. Most of the hostels are running to capacity and they have not the staff to meet the needs of the residents other than providing a roof over their heads. There is much need for half-way houses for people trying to stay off alcohol, for psychiatric patients on discharge, and for young people to provide them with direction and support and so keep them from destroying themselves”.

Our letter said much more, especially about vacant houses in the city centre.

What have we learned over the almost 50 years, I wonder. We have had more reports from experts with vast sums of taxpayers’ money spent on same.

Meanwhile there is a huge number of people suffering, together with a growing number of frustrated workers attempting to meet their needs.

The increasing dependency on corporate-speak to highlight or cover up the real pain and potential lost by fellow human beings in a country of great wealth should be a cause for concern and acknowledged.

The following quote by Ernest Hemingway was brought to my notice recently by a friend as we reflected on these issues in the times we are living in: “Hope is never so lost that it can’t be found.” – Yours, etc,

ALICE

LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

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Public conveniences | The Irish Times, December 31st, 2019

Sir, – “Dublin City Council hasn’t spent a penny on public toilets” (Olivia Kelly, News, December 30th).

Surprise, surprise. In July 2006, we made a submission to Dublin City Council for public showers. We resubmitted that same submission to all city councillors in 2014. Since 2006, your paper has published our many letters highlighting the need for this facility. In November 2018, The Irish Times published a supplement, “Capital Ideas – 10 ideas for improving Dublin’s infrastructure, economy and daily life”, which included a submission from me on the need for public showers and toilets. It also included an example from your journalist Catherine Cleary of how Paris deals with this issue.

Once again, we are highlighting the need for something as basic as public toilets. This is at a time when the council is discussing spending large sums of money on white-water rafting. It must be clear to anyone with common sense that public toilets should be available for men and women to use in our very busy capital city. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

The Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Not just another winter’s tale | The Irish Times, December 7th, 2019

Sir, – Reading the story, “Brain-damaged homeless man in Mountjoy for year after HSE cancels care plan” (Home News, December 6th), “scandalous” is the word that comes to mind.

Mr Justice Kelly described it as, “A truly awful situation and one that should not exist in a civilised state”. A comment no doubt all would agree with.

Many people will be shocked by this story, but here in the Alice Leahy Trust, given what we see regularly, sadly it does not shock us. Regarding a reference to the man having “Ram’s horn” (a toenail condition), this is something we come across often, together with many other health issues generally associated with third-world conditions.

This should not be a case of “Just Another Winter’s Tale”. It is the story of a poor man neglected by the State. The many professionals who dealt with this man should hang their heads in shame.

“It is not my responsibility” are words we hear regularly when trying to help the people who use our service, many of whom have mental health issues and can at times be difficult. That is, of course, if you get someone to talk to.

While we are well aware of one’s right to privacy, “I can’t discuss this with you due to GDPR regulations” is another term bandied about, an excuse for doing nothing all too often used by people charged with certain responsibilities.

This at a time when millions of taxpayers’ money are being spent. Selected personnel with limited experience discuss plans behind closed doors with decisions then rubber-stamped by officials. The people involved in drawing up these plans rarely have human contact with the “person” only referred to as the “client” or “case”.

It is clear that the issue raised by Mr Justice Kelly and ME Hanahoe Solicitors in the case of the man in Mountjoy is a wake-up call that must not be ignored by our politicians. We should be grateful to them, even though I know they would not be seeking compliments.

Any one of us could be in the shoes of that poor vulnerable man. Only by placing ourselves in the shoes of that man can we ever hope for a better public service. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.