Crystal Clear win for charity founder

By Jennifer Hough

A SOCIAL campaigner who yesterday received a lifetime achievement award for her work with homeless people has vowed to carry on for another lifetime.

Alice Leahy, the co-founder of charity TRUST, a social and health service set up in 1975, said it was a “great boost” to receive the National Health Literacy Award, which recognises healthcare professionals efforts to address health literacy problems.

She said it was not about her but about recognising the people she and her team meet everyday.

Winning opened doors for them and allowed their work to continue, she said.

Ms Leahy, who has received awards over the years for her work with society’s most disadvantaged people, said realising you had a lifetime of work done, it was also important to wake up the next morning and start all over again.

She said communicating with people in a simple way was paramount to helping them.

A big problem for people using services, she said, is the jargon they face.

“One phrase used now in relation to poverty is ‘case management’ but this is such a cold and meaningless term,” said Ms Leahy.

“To me language in use now is distancing people. We need to use simple language, and be crystal clear,” she said.

Ms Leahy, who last year published a book titled Wasting Time With People, said if we do not give our time, what is the point.

Dr Gerardine Doyle, UCD Business Schools and chairperson of the Crystal Clear Awards judging panel said Ms Leahy was chosen as her work embodies the ethos of health literacy.

“Alice’s work empowers those who are sleeping on the streets of Dublin, who have varying literacy levels, to access the services they need,” she said.

“The judges felt her willingness to communicate in non-conventional ways through personal contact, paintings, poems, uplifting magazines and books is inspirational, and we honour her for her ongoing dedication to a person-centred model of care.”

Numbers queuing for food parcels at friary doubles

by Jennifer Hough

MORE than 700 people queued outside a Dublin friary yesterday for free food parcels — double the numbers the centre normally feeds.

From early morning, crowds began to gather, afraid they might miss out on the basic food packs, which contain staples such as bread, tea, sugar, and tinned food.

Brother Kevin Crowley, who runs the day centre of the Capuchin Friary on Church Street, Dublin 7, said he was deeply saddened that so many people were presenting for free food and that yesterday was the first time they had ever run out of supplies.

He said it is not just homeless people, but people who have lost their jobs and are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

He said the crowds were made up of different age groups and nationalities, but there were now a lot more young people and families living in difficult circumstances.

“I was talking to one young man who felt terrible that he had to come here for food, but he said he was hungry and had no choice.” He said the numbers coming to the centre for meals had also greatly increased.

“We might normally have 250 people for dinner, yesterday we had 430,” he said. All food at the centre is free.

Br Crowley said running costs are e1 million annually, e450,000 of which was a Government grant.

“We raise the rest ourselves and rely on the generosity of people.”

Br Crowley also noted the number of foreign nationals in need of aid. “They have no family supports to rely on,” he said.

Alice Leahy, founder of Trust, a charity for homeless people, said it was a “very fearful time” and that there had been a dramatic increase in the number of foreign people using the charity’s services.

She said more than 50% of the people it sees are not Irish. She urged foreign embassies to play a role, and contribute something to help people from their countries. She said a Lithuanian man was recently buried in Trust’s plot in Glasnevin cemetery and the only people at the funeral were the social worker, the charity workers and the priest. “You would have thought he could have been repatriated,” she said. “That is something which would have happened 30 years ago.”

Another worry, Ms Leahy said, was for people who were becoming suddenly homeless.

“Those who have lived on streets for many years somehow learn to cope, but if someone loses their job and finds themselves homeless it is a shock and very difficult for them to cope. There will be a big psychological effect that is not addressed.”

Homeless shelter forced to turn people away

By Jennifer Hough

A 21-BED emergency shelter for homeless people which opened on a pilot basis in Dublin over the weekend is running at full capacity and already having to turn people away.

The shelter opened after calls from homeless campaigner and founder of Trust Ireland, Alice Leahy, called for disused buildings around the city to be used as emergency accommodation during the cold weather.

Ms Leahy, who has been working at the coalface of homelessness since the 1970s, said people who would not have expected to ever sleep rough, might be too ashamed to give their personal details at shelters.

Following her appeal in an article in the Irish Examiner, Minister for the Environment John Gormley moved to act on her suggestion and a disused civil building, run by Dublin Simon Community on behalf of Dublin City Council, is working at full capacity.

“People said there was no need for this shelter, but it went from six people on the first night to full capacity,” she said.

“Last night people had to be turned away. Obviously there is a great need for it.”

Open from 11pm to 8am, the shelter is a wet facility, allowing drinking in two communal rooms and will accept people who are not admitted to other centres for reasons such as drug or alcohol issues.

The centre’s location has not been identified to protect the clients’ privacy and to avoid possible objections from local residents.

Crosscare, the Depaul Trust and Focus Ireland are also involved in the new venture.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Cork Simon Community said almost 150 emergency beds in the city were also running at full capacity.

“At the moment we have enough beds, but we are concerned there will be an upswing in people sleeping rough as the economic crisis deepens,” he said.

“The problem is that people end up staying in emergency accommodation long term and there are no move-on options. There is nowhere for them to go.”

According to Met Éireann, the wintry weather is set to last with bitterly cold weather predicted to last until at least the weekend. It will remain very cold with wintry showers persisting in northern and western counties.

While it will be mostly clear elsewhere, severe or very severe frost is expected to set in widely as north-west winds slacken and rain, sleet and snow is predicted to spread to remaining parts of the country during Sunday.

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Thursday, February 05, 2009