‘Better to be in prison than on the streets’

Situation must be acknowledged and addressed

Sir, – Shauna Bowers’s article “It was better to be in prison than on the streets” (News, August 20th) included quotes from people in the field, backed up by statistics. Working for almost half a century with people who are homeless, we can verify that her account is accurate.

Over that time, we have met people pleading to go to prison, often breaking a window, or stealing a shirt, ensuring a garda was not too far away, making sure a pass to Mountjoy would be in the pipeline.

Sitting in an overcrowded court room listening to a homeless woman pleading with a kindly judge to send her to prison and to ignore the naive person pleading for her release was a bewildering but useful lesson for some observers.

Some readers will find this hard to understand. This is what can happen when someone is desperate and crying out for help, seeking a respite from sleeping on the streets or in unsafe and hostile environments.

All too often the Garda Síochána is the only service available to them.

The issues raised have been highlighted by many people and agencies over the years supported by reports at considerable expense, with little obvious change.

Homelessness is not about housing alone and has many contributing factors. We addressed these issues with the Oireachtas Joint Committee, on Housing, Local Government and Heritage on January 29th, 2021.

This can be seen on our website aliceleahytrust.ie.

Many of us welcomed the closure of the large psychiatric hospitals, naively believing that appropriate services would be put in place and adequately resourced, but this never happened and has clearly been a contributing factor to the situation we now find ourselves in.

Respite in prison for people who are homeless and have mental health problems, with the associated stigma, will continue, until the situation is acknowledged and addressed. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Sport lifts us up but exit of manager an embarrassment

I have been a Tipp supporter since the time it was possible to cycle to Munster finals and leave an unlocked bicycle on the street.

I am acutely aware that over the past two to three years sport gave us a great uplift even if curtailed: rugby, racing, soccer and much more. The GAA, a wonderful example of real community involvement, gave us something to celebrate. The success of our Tipp minor hurlers, under the stewardship of James Woodlock, was the icing on the cake for us Tipp people this year.

Reading how Colm Bonnar was “relieved of his duties” with the senior side was an embarrassment and made me wonder if our capacity to be grateful, kind and – more importantly – human has been clouded.

I wish him happy days into the future.

Alice Leahy

Director of services, Alice Leahy Trust, Dublin 8


No face to public services

Online services are no substitute

Sir, – Accessing public services is now almost impossible right across the board. This has been helped by the convenient excuses of the pandemic which has been used to downgrade services rather than upgrade them. It is the norm now when asked to transfer a call to be told, “I can’t, I am working from home.”

The first requirement of someone who finds themselves homeless now appears to be the possession of a mobile phone, and the internet to access services.

It is high time that someone in a position of responsibility defines what we now mean by “public services”. – Yours, etc,


Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.



Funding public showers

Council has made money available

Sir, – Alice Leahy (Letters, June 11th) is correct about the need for city centre public showers and toilets and that she circulated those proposals to Dublin City Councillors on several occasions.

She is also correct in saying that action should have been taken on these and that Dublin deserves better.

What may not be known is that Dublin City Councillors have at least twice voted for the introduction of such facilities and provided the initial funding in the city budget.

The fact that they have not been delivered is down solely to our system of local government with huge powers resting with the executive.

This is the deliberate policy of both the permanent and temporary governments. What I cannot understand however is the complicit behaviour of the vast majority of media in Ireland which protects and implicitly defends the disastrous role of the Department of Housing and Local Government in our country.

From my experience in nearly 30 years as a public representative is that huge swathes of Ireland’s problems – starting with housing, planning and local government – all lead back to the Custom House [Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage].

– Yours, etc,



Dublin 4.