Irish Times: The human factor is key to helping citizens

Faith in public service is restored

Sir, – The embarrassment of being put off the bus in front of my neighbours, with an out-of-date public service card, with very small print, was facing me, having not received a letter I was informed was posted to me pre-Christmas.

A quick internet search for a number to ring was easy. The pre-recorded message, interspersed with music I could dance a jig to, informed me that all lines were busy and an “agent” would be with me as soon as possible. Eventually my call was answered, followed by a number of questions, including what was my mother’s maiden name. I was advised to contact my local Intreo Centre (Department of Social Protection), yes another new name now! I didn’t relish doing so based on past experience.

I called in to D’Olier House in Dublin and in the space of five minutes my faith in public service was restored. I met the most helpful, professional woman with a wonderful smile that would brighten one’s day, Joan. She even offered to give me a letter to ensure my bus trip would be embarrassment-free pending arrival of my updated card. Joan clearly saw me as a fellow human being, not just a statistic to facilitate box-ticking. We clearly need people like her to help people feel they do matter, and there are a lot of people needing services in our technical-dependent age who feel they don’t matter. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,
Director of Services,
Alice Leahy Trust,
Dublin 8.

See: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/2024/03/27/the-human-factor-is-key-to-helping-citizens/

Irish Times: Past, present and future – Country wisdom

Sir, – Patrick Freyne, writing about Patrick Joyce’s book Remembering Peasants, gives us a great reminder of the not too distant past, and how easy it has become for us to forget “our postmodern world is locked in a continuous present tense” (“Learning from our peasant past: ‘We might have to live on the edge. We may have to learn to be survivors’”, Books, February 10th).

In our rush to solve life’s problems, often even around our most pressing issues, health and homelessness, a degree of reflection free of soundbites, blame and management speak could go some way to instil optimism and help us navigate through these challenging times. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,
Director of Services,
Alice Leahy Trust,
Dublin 8.

See: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/2024/02/14/past-present-and-future/

“Just reaching out . . . ” Bandwidth challenges (Irish Times)

Sir, – An email I received recently from a master’s student in one of our well-known universities who wanted to be put in touch with homeless people for research purposes highlighted how nonsensical things have become. It started off “Hi Gatekeeper – I am reaching out to you.” Justine’s article has reassured me that I am not alone as I head into the New Year optimistic that things might change. Hope springs eternal. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/2023/12/30/just-reaching-out/

Redefining homelessness – Definitions can limit discussion rather than enhance it

Sir, – Daniel K O’Sullivan (Letters, November 11th) reminds us of how we continue to ignore that which is unacceptable to current thinking when discussing homelessness.

Working in the field of homelessness for years, I have seen politicians, ministers and expert groups come and go, and are we further removed now from understanding the complexities and obvious remedies than we ever were?
It is important to reflect at times on what was possible during that time with objectivity. Many people lived happy lives in bedsits including this writer.

More importantly many people who fitted the definition of homelessness at the time also lived happily in bedsits – cramped conditions by today’s standards. Homeless people we meet today include couples sleeping in fragile tents, with only a cuddle to keep warm as accommodation for couples is limited. Some people are fearful of hostel accommodation, despite of the hard work of staff. Hotel accommodation in some cases is no better than the bedsits we continue to dismiss. However, one clear difference is how much it is costing the taxpayer. The debate on homelessness needs to be much broader than just redefining homelessness. Definitions can limit discussion rather than enhance it. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,
Director of Services,
Alice Leahy Trust,
Dublin 8.

Link: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/2023/11/14/redefining-homelessness/#:~:text=Homeless%20people%20we%20meet%20today,bedsits%20we%20continue%20to%20dismiss