Understanding homelessness | The Irish Times 1st August 2019

Sir, – Sorcha Pollak, in writing about the death of Polish man Michal Wasikiewicz, highlighted some of the issues faced by people who become homeless and also the problems faced by people attempting to meet their needs (“‘Family and friends keep asking me when his funeral will be held’”, News, July 29th).

It clearly highlights what homelessness as opposed to houselessness means. This is an issue that is rarely discussed or indeed understood in the current debate around homelessness. Families of people who become homeless can be challenged and often made to feel they are not doing enough.

The pressure on agencies at times to get personal information from people can easily tread on people’s rights and sometimes push people further away. People have a right to live the life they choose to live, even if choosing “a road less travelled”, which can unfortunately mean often their families are left with a lot of unanswered questions. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

‘Professionalism’ and NGOs | The Irish Times 20th July 2019

Sir, – Simon Gordon’s letter on “Education and ‘professionalism’” raises a very important issue (July 18th). He has focused on education, when in the past “professionalism was associated with high standards”. This of course is true in so many other important areas of Irish life. The word “professional” is being abused and often conveniently misunderstood in so many areas of crucial importance to the lives of so many people. Health and social care, poverty and social exclusion come to mind when people with creative ideas can face enormous challenges when questioning some of the new models coming on stream. “Professionalism” at times amounts to “ticking boxes”, with questionable outcomes.

The skill-sets and experience of many dedicated and hard-working people are often undervalued and not appreciated. For example, those spending essential time with vulnerable people needing that time can find themselves being accused of “wasting time with people” and more importantly of being “unprofessional”. This is an issue that has now seeped into the NGO sector with emphasis on “best practice”, with at times serious consequences. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

Awareness of homelessness | The Irish Times 25th May 2019

Sir, – The National Housing Conference 2040 – Delivering the Vision for Housing, held in Dublin Castle from May 20th to 21st, highlighted the reason why so many people are confused and frustrated by the lack of awareness around the issues of homelessness and the current housing deficit.

Many of the people taking part in the conference clearly came from the world of architecture and planning.

While I don’t doubt the value of their perspectives, where were the many other agencies that are required to bring about solutions?

There continues to be no general understanding of the difference between the current lack of housing and homelessness. The structural causes for the current lack of housing and the social causes underpinning homelessness, as evident on our streets, continue to be conflated, thus confusing the public debate. This allows various Government agencies off the hook, and more importantly adds to the frustration and disillusionment among the general populace that a solution to either problem will ever be found.

Huge sums of money continue to be spent on the issues around housing and homelessness while the views of those working at the coalface appear to be ignored. Government departments need to work together, embrace a holistic strategy, and listen to frontline workers if anything is to change for the better.

Until those with hands-on experience and those who can put bricks and mortar together are involved in the “debate”, the problems will remain and even grow while individual human beings continue to suffer. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.

‘Is modern medicine doing more harm than good?’ | The Irish Times 4th April 2019

Sir, – “Is modern medicine doing more harm than good?”, Dr Muiris Houston asks (Health + Family, April 2nd).

Every so often this challenging and welcome question arises.

Many of us remember Ivan Illich’s book Medical Nemesis; it was required reading at a pre-Google time when we met in groups to analyse and debate his views, always leading to healthy and heated arguments.

Dr Séamus O’Mahony’s book Can Medicine be Cured? reminds me of our now departed friend Prof James McCormick whose book The Doctor, Father Figure or Plumber? was published in 1979.

In 1994 James wrote an appreciation in The Irish Times remembering his friend and colleague Prof Petr Skrabanek (mentioned by Muiris Houston) whose views were taken seriously by thinking physicians throughout the world.

“Future generations will honour his learning, the elegance of his writing and the cogency of his criticism”, Prof McCormick wrote.

The questions raised and challenges posed by these people at different times are so important, now more than ever before.

These are issues not just for members of the medical profession but for all working with or concerned about the health of fellow human beings.

Today medicine is so often seen as the only solution to the pain of living. – Yours, etc,

ALICE LEAHY,

Director of Services,

Alice Leahy Trust,

Dublin 8.