‘Keep the music playing on Lyric FM for all our sakes’ | Irish Independent 24th September 2019

Since Lyric FM first aired in 1999, its music has wafted through our basement centre in the Liberties.

Back then the people who used our service came from the island of Ireland. In recent years the people who call come from up to 26 different countries and all sleeping out in parks, doorways and so on throughout the city and beyond.

The music creates a peaceful atmosphere for all those who use our service and those who attempt to meet their needs. The benefits are unquantifiable. Language barriers break down as the body language at times acknowledges the composer from a home place miles away.

This generally follows on with a struggling attempt to share its history and its special place in the culture of one’s country of birth. Dare I suggest Lyric FM at times defuses potential racism and aggressive behaviour as the music plays on?

“Music is the language of the spirit, it opens the secret of life, bringing peace, abolishing strife,” wrote Kahlil Gibran.

There is a world out there which rarely reaches the centre of power, where decisions are made. So let’s hope common sense prevails and the wonderful station with informed and dedicated presenters continues to brighten our days.

Alice Leahy

Bride Road, Dublin

Children’s mental health needs | Irish Independent 15th June 2018

A report by Oberstown Children’s Detention Centre was referred to by Lena Timoney, head of Care Services, on ‘Morning Ireland’ (June 14).

The report found 52pc of young people were identified as having mental health needs.

A multi-agency approach was being explored to address how best to deal with this very real concern.

Multi-agency discussions and co-operation are crucial and much more productive when people who are working on the ground are involved.

From our experience of working on the ground, in the field of homelessness since 1975, we can attest to this.

The mental health needs of our young people will grow unless there is a real commitment to change.

Appropriate planning and adequate funding must be made available, sooner rather than later, if we are to make any progress.

Alice Leahy Director of Services, Alice Leahy Trust

It shouldn’t take a ‘snow event’ to highlight homeless problems | Irish Independent 7th March 2018

People from all sections of the community throughout the land worked tirelessly night and day to ensure no stone was left unturned during the “snow event”.

All major events should be followed by a period of reflection with questions posed. From our hands-on work for more than 40 years with people who are homeless we have a number of concerns. Why was there such surprise that a huge number of people presented for emergency beds, not on the “system” and not known to the many outreach teams? This came as no surprise to many of us working in the field.

Increasing numbers of people, mainly young men who never thought they would end up homeless, now find themselves on the streets. We know there are people hidden away in squats, cars, bushes, tents etc, because they call to us daily – many coming from outside this jurisdiction.

Some feel the pressure to conform or fit in, but wish to remain private and therefore are unable to access accommodation as a consequence.

The challenges some pose have been downplayed. Building relationships with people requires a lot of time and understanding.

Sometimes the only way society can cope with challenging behaviour is by locking people away in prison or psychiatric institutions. A number of people were sectioned last week “for their own safety”. Sectioning someone has huge implications. Our nation’s history of dealing with challenging people/behaviour in the recent past has been well documented and condemned widely.

his could be repeated if a broad-based debate does not take place around people’s rights in this area. There are many who have great difficulty coping with life, and some people have mental health issues. Other people clearly have a different way of viewing the world and that should be respected. Is it ever possible to protect people from themselves?

Alice Leahy Director of services,
Alice Leahy Trust,
Bride Road,
Dublin 8

Deaths should make us think | Irish Independent 1 Dec 2017

The deaths of two people sleeping rough reminds us of how a section of homeless people could easily be overlooked. This, at a time when the housing crisis is top of the agenda and money, bricks and mortar urgently being sourced to solve the problem, and rightly so.
Up to recent years reports on homelessness generally referred to the people who were homeless as the ‘single homeless’. These people do and will continue to exist and pose very difficult challenges for those attempting to care for them.
People who fit into this category often reject the conventional values of society and some have themselves been rejected, many of whom have myriad problems.
There is no ‘quick-fix’ solution to this problem. Why someone would choose to live outside poses huge questions about the type of society we live in. A fast-moving society focused on success. Building relationships is a long process requiring time, commitment and – more importantly – an understanding that giving time to others is not time wasted.
Exactly this time 25 years ago, in 1992, two people, Pauline and Danny, made headlines when they died. John Egan, an RTÉ reporter, asked me were there any lessons to be learned from their deaths.
I felt then, and still do, that such a tragedy prompts all of us to ask questions.
A practical solution, however old fashioned it may appear, would be a clean, warm, safe, well run, openaccess shelter.
Ireland always ensured the outsiders were acknowledged, even if only in poems and song.
We should ensure that this remains the case and their deaths, as David Essex reminds us, is not “only a winter’s tale, just another winter’s tale”.

Alice Leahy
Alice Leahy Trust, Dublin 8