Snobbery and the housing crisis | The Irish Times 16th October 2018

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s article “Snobbery is at the root of the housing crisis” raises a very important issue and not just about housing.

Sadly snobbery is alive and well in society and it is good to be reminded of that fact. Education in the broadest sense and good example is the first step to addressing it.

Attitudinal change takes time.

Objections to proposed locations of social housing are often led by elected representatives and this gives oxygen to snobbery and social exclusion.

Your columnist writes: “The way to avoid turning public housing estates into ghettoes is not to stop building them. It is to make social housing available to a much wider range of people and to allocate it in a way that ensures that the communities that inhabit it are varied”

It is plain to see the wisdom of those words. Surely those in a position of responsibility to address the housing problem should reflect on his words and lead by example. It would benefit the wider society. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Bride Road,

Dublin 8.

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.