Understanding homelessness | The Irish Times 1st August 2019

Sir, – Sorcha Pollak, in writing about the death of Polish man Michal Wasikiewicz, highlighted some of the issues faced by people who become homeless and also the problems faced by people attempting to meet their needs (“‘Family and friends keep asking me when his funeral will be held’”, News, July 29th).

It clearly highlights what homelessness as opposed to houselessness means. This is an issue that is rarely discussed or indeed understood in the current debate around homelessness. Families of people who become homeless can be challenged and often made to feel they are not doing enough.

The pressure on agencies at times to get personal information from people can easily tread on people’s rights and sometimes push people further away. People have a right to live the life they choose to live, even if choosing “a road less travelled”, which can unfortunately mean often their families are left with a lot of unanswered questions. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

‘Professionalism’ and NGOs | The Irish Times 20th July 2019

Sir, – Simon Gordon’s letter on “Education and ‘professionalism’” raises a very important issue (July 18th). He has focused on education, when in the past “professionalism was associated with high standards”. This of course is true in so many other important areas of Irish life. The word “professional” is being abused and often conveniently misunderstood in so many areas of crucial importance to the lives of so many people. Health and social care, poverty and social exclusion come to mind when people with creative ideas can face enormous challenges when questioning some of the new models coming on stream. “Professionalism” at times amounts to “ticking boxes”, with questionable outcomes.

The skill-sets and experience of many dedicated and hard-working people are often undervalued and not appreciated. For example, those spending essential time with vulnerable people needing that time can find themselves being accused of “wasting time with people” and more importantly of being “unprofessional”. This is an issue that has now seeped into the NGO sector with emphasis on “best practice”, with at times serious consequences. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Awareness of homelessness | The Irish Times 25th May 2019

Sir, – The National Housing Conference 2040 – Delivering the Vision for Housing, held in Dublin Castle from May 20th to 21st, highlighted the reason why so many people are confused and frustrated by the lack of awareness around the issues of homelessness and the current housing deficit.

Many of the people taking part in the conference clearly came from the world of architecture and planning.

While I don’t doubt the value of their perspectives, where were the many other agencies that are required to bring about solutions?

There continues to be no general understanding of the difference between the current lack of housing and homelessness. The structural causes for the current lack of housing and the social causes underpinning homelessness, as evident on our streets, continue to be conflated, thus confusing the public debate. This allows various Government agencies off the hook, and more importantly adds to the frustration and disillusionment among the general populace that a solution to either problem will ever be found.

Huge sums of money continue to be spent on the issues around housing and homelessness while the views of those working at the coalface appear to be ignored. Government departments need to work together, embrace a holistic strategy, and listen to frontline workers if anything is to change for the better.

Until those with hands-on experience and those who can put bricks and mortar together are involved in the “debate”, the problems will remain and even grow while individual human beings continue to suffer. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Little Change in 70 years of housing | Sunday Independent April 21st 2019

Sir – Mr Murphy said, “he was satisfied that the traditional type of housing in this country would not supply the housing needs for a long time and it was possible that the erection of pre-fabricated houses might be undertaken to a limited extent in order to cope with the most pressing requirements”.

It wasn’t the current Minister for Housing, also called Murphy – Eoghan – it was Mr TJ Murphy, Minister for Local Government, speaking in Dublin Airport on his return from London in 1948 and reported in the Sunday Independent, September 5 1948, and reproduced in your supplement celebrating 70 years of the Republic (Sunday Independent, April 14).

So what has changed since that time over 70 years ago? Have we learned anything in the intervening years? From what we read about housing in today’s papers – no. I suggest the only change is the price of the paper, then two pence!

Alice Leahy
Director of Services
Alice Leahy Trust, Dublin 8