Trading personal stories for care

Sir, – Gráinne Conroy poses a very important question, ”Why must we trade personal stories for healthcare?” (Opinion & Analysis, November 8th).

This issue is not just confined to women and healthcare. It is widespread.

Telling one’s story in great detail has increasingly become essential for people who are homeless to access accommodation, even at a very basic level or to link in with other services.

No doubt some details are essential but the very private details of one’s life, very often their only possession, can be too painful to recall at a time when “ticking the box” seems to be so important.

This needs to be an issue all of us need to be acutely aware of. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Public showers

Sir, – We made a submission to Dublin City Council in July 2006 for public showers in our city and resubmitted our proposal again in July 2014, to no avail. We have highlighted the need for public showers at every opportunity through the media since then. Our country has changed dramatically in recent years; increasing numbers of people are now sleeping on our streets, added to by people fleeing Ukraine. The increased electricity and gas prices for struggling households clearly highlight the benefits of and need for well-run public shower facilities.

Such a basic need does not grab attention or headlines but would help people in a way that is beyond description. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

‘Better to be in prison than on the streets’

Situation must be acknowledged and addressed

Sir, – Shauna Bowers’s article “It was better to be in prison than on the streets” (News, August 20th) included quotes from people in the field, backed up by statistics. Working for almost half a century with people who are homeless, we can verify that her account is accurate.

Over that time, we have met people pleading to go to prison, often breaking a window, or stealing a shirt, ensuring a garda was not too far away, making sure a pass to Mountjoy would be in the pipeline.

Sitting in an overcrowded court room listening to a homeless woman pleading with a kindly judge to send her to prison and to ignore the naive person pleading for her release was a bewildering but useful lesson for some observers.

Some readers will find this hard to understand. This is what can happen when someone is desperate and crying out for help, seeking a respite from sleeping on the streets or in unsafe and hostile environments.

All too often the Garda Síochána is the only service available to them.

The issues raised have been highlighted by many people and agencies over the years supported by reports at considerable expense, with little obvious change.

Homelessness is not about housing alone and has many contributing factors. We addressed these issues with the Oireachtas Joint Committee, on Housing, Local Government and Heritage on January 29th, 2021.

This can be seen on our website aliceleahytrust.ie.

Many of us welcomed the closure of the large psychiatric hospitals, naively believing that appropriate services would be put in place and adequately resourced, but this never happened and has clearly been a contributing factor to the situation we now find ourselves in.

Respite in prison for people who are homeless and have mental health problems, with the associated stigma, will continue, until the situation is acknowledged and addressed. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

No face to public services

Online services are no substitute

Sir, – Accessing public services is now almost impossible right across the board. This has been helped by the convenient excuses of the pandemic which has been used to downgrade services rather than upgrade them. It is the norm now when asked to transfer a call to be told, “I can’t, I am working from home.”

The first requirement of someone who finds themselves homeless now appears to be the possession of a mobile phone, and the internet to access services.

It is high time that someone in a position of responsibility defines what we now mean by “public services”. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

 

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