Letters to the Editor: Why we must always raise the roof on homelessness

Having worked with homeless people since 1973, I am still haunted by the faces of the many men and women I have met, who were fearful to talk about the abuse they suffered in the institutions of the State, either directly or indirectly.

Some, too, remembered the compassion of  those who helped them. In my time, I have seen the dismantling of institutions to be replaced by Care in the Community; this we can now describe as a mirage. Filling this gap has resulted in voluntary and statutory bodies working together with the required oversight.

Mick Clifford, in his column, ‘Silence on failure to protect vulnerable’ ( Irish Examiner, Saturday, September 18), about recent events in the area of homelessness, raises a number of issues we should be concerned about.

Over the years, I have come across many people who were afraid to access accommodation, because they remembered abuse suffered within four walls, be it the family home or one of many institutions.

The Alice Leahy Trust’s views on homelessness are based on our daily work over nearly 50 years and were presented to the Oireachtas joint committee on housing, local government, and heritage on January 29 and can be viewed on our website, www.aliceleahytrust.ie. Some of our public representatives, and even people working in the field of homelessness, have  difficulty understanding or accepting the complexity of homelessness.

Over the years, expert groups, reports, and conferences costing millions have mushroomed, yet it is left to journalists to ask the important questions and it is so important that they do. For instance, why are people afraid to speak out? Some of us know the answer: No promotion, lack of courage, isolation, fear they  won’t be believed, and group think. Surely it is a small price to pay if an injustice is clear to see; you should remember that that person could be you. It is easy for us to complain about injustices abroad, while  ignoring those closer to home — this should not be the case, whatever one’s background.

Some issues seem to be worthy of debate, others not. It has become far too easy to look at statistics, money, bricks and mortar and ignore the fears and vulnerabilities of others,  the humanity behind the statistics. Not everyone has access to power, especially not people who are homeless — the majority of them don’t vote. Public representatives have a responsibility to address the issues raised by Michael Clifford and not remain silent on matters of importance to us all, especially to vulnerable human beings, of whom there are many.

Alice Leahy

Director of Services Alice Leahy Trust

Bride Road

Dublin 8


Article by Mick Clifford, Irish Examiner, Saturday 11th July 2020

In one strand of Greek philosophy, a person is not fully dead until burial. By that standard, Stephen Corrigan was caught between life and death for the nine years he lay in a bush a few metres from a busy thoroughfare, writes Michael Clifford…

You can read the full article here:

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,


Director of Services,

The Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Garda centenary book raises €33k for homeless charity | Irish Examiner 25th September 2018

Homelessness champion Alice Leahy said a cheque for €33,000 raised by gardaí through the sale of a commemorative book will be of “enormous” benefit to her organisation.

She said all the money would go straight into the services provided at the Alice Leahy Trust, which include medical assistance, washing facilities, and clothing for homeless people, most of them rough sleepers.

The money has been raised through the sale of Pearse Street 100, a 180-page coffee-table book chronicling the centenary of Pearse Street Garda Station, Dublin.

The idea was the brainchild of Superintendent Joe Gannon, district commander of Pearse Street station, and the book was researched and edited by Garda Stephen Moore.

We are a small organisation, we don’t ask for money, and get no State funding,” said Ms Leahy, who has worked with the homeless for 40 years. “€33,000 is an enormous amount for us and will go directly towards our services, and particularly that it’s coming from the Gardaí, and Supt Gannon came up with the idea, makes it extra special.

She called for a previous student garda placement scheme, which she ran in the trust before the embargo on recruitment, to be resurrected.
Ms Leahy said such schemes enable gardaí to “meet people on the street”, understand what their lives are like and the “hugely complex needs” that they have.

“I am very anxious that that would happen again,” said Ms Leahy, who recently won a human rights award at UCC.

Deputy Commissioner John Twomey, who attended the handover of the cheque, said the book was a great initiative by gardaí in the Dublin South Central division.

It demonstrates once again the concern Garda members have in protecting and supporting vulnerable people,” he said.

Chief Superintendent Lorraine Wheatley said: “For four decades Alice Leahy has provided invaluable assistance, care, and kindness to some of the most vulnerable people in our community in Dublin city. Gardaí in Dublin South Central are proud of our long association with the trust.”