Sectioning homeless people | The Irish Times 6th March 2018

Sir, – 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, with many coming from outside this jurisdiction. Some people 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 people 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. Who would wish to see poverty or exclusion in other forms medicalised or people locked away if even for a short period and all that that implies?

Our nation’s history of dealing with challenging people and behaviours in the recent past has been well documented and condemned widely. This could well be repeated if a broad-based debate does not take place, sooner rather than later, about people’s rights in this area. There are many people 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? – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Bride Road,

Dublin 8.

Always a place for practical experience | The Irish Times 28th Feb 2018

Sir, – Sir Ken Robinson’s point that “the problem with that preoccupation of a certain style of education is that it marginalises a great many of the other abilities and talents that kids have, and that they’ll need now and in the future” is welcome and timely (Carl O’Brien, “Parents warned of obsession with sending children to university”, News, February 23rd).

From what we see every day an increasing number of people feel pressurised to do a masters to succeed and get on the “employment ladder”. The hands-on work required to encourage human contact is in danger of being misunderstood and devalued at many levels when research is being carried out to plan services, not just to people who are marginalised. This is having a profound effect on the quality of compassionate care that is so essential to the quality of life of so many in need of care and assistance and those struggling to provide it.

In the recent past I had the opportunity to meet a number of diverse groups, from primary school students, graduates and people going through the “University of Life”! The challenging questions posed and the energy and enthusiasm of the young children I met in a small, rural primary school in my home county of Tipperary were breathtaking. I left saying to their wonderful young teacher, “I wish our politicians, academics and planners of services would ask the same questions and have the same level of energy and enthusiasm”. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Bride Road,

Dublin 8.

Causes of homelessness | The Irish Times 18th Dec 2017

Sir, – Anecdotal evidence around the complexities of the problems of homelessness is widespread. However concrete evidence can only be achieved by good quality evidence based research. For that reason the report from the Dublin Region Homeless Executive is timely. In the report by Olivia Kelly (Home News, December 15th) relationship breakdowns are seen as a contributing factor to homelessness.

This poses the question how does the State deal with the many and growing social issues.

The State can and must provide housing for those in need. Social concerns remain and a range of services are required – often from the cradle to the grave.

Unless these issues are acknowledged and addressed the number of people in need of housing because of social issues will continue to grow ad infinitum. Politicians particularly need to be well informed and courageous enough to acknowledge that fact. Questions do need to be asked about the type of society we now live in.

Looking beneath and behind a statistic requires time and is crucial. The wise words of Andrew Lange over 100 years ago makes so much sense. “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts – for support rather than illumination”.

Only when we acknowledge his wise words as a basis for sound planning can we say with certainty that change is possible. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.