TRUST Launches Joint Initiative with the Public Library Service to promote better understanding of the Outsider

Actor Gerard Byrne, better known as ‘Malachy’ from Fair City, today launched an initiative by TRUST and the public library service, with the support of the Library Council, to help promote better understanding of the needs of the outsiders in our midst, especially those who are homeless. The initiative aims to make a special DVD available to the public, in which Gerard also features, through all of the country’s public libraries entitled Building Trust in the Community and Alice Leahy, Director and Co-Founder of TRUST said “we have been very heartened by the encouragement and support we have received for this initiative from librarians and library staff in all parts of the county, especially as they represent as a very unique network that reaches into every community, town and village.”

Pointing out that this is not just about looking at a DVD Alice Leahy said that the aim was to encourage people to borrow it from the library and watch it with others – family, friends, work colleagues or in a voluntary/community group – and to discuss the issues raised so that everyone would have the opportunity to challenge perceptions and enhance understanding of what it means to be an outsider. “Changing attitudes is as important as getting the government to make resources available if we are serious about creating really inclusive communities where no one is excluded,” Alice Leahy said.

Building Trust in the Community is a national project created by TRUST, in association with The Irish Times and is co-sponsored by ESB Electric Aid, and was described by Alice Leahy as a very ambitious national project to give people the chance to help “to change attitudes towards those who are homeless, and to make those who are excluded and outsiders in Irish society feel wanted”. The aim of the project she said was also to build on the considerable work already going on in many communities across Ireland by people who make time for those who are excluded.

TRUST has also made available on its web site additional resources as part of the project and can be accessed on: www.trust-ireland.ie

Commenting on behalf of the Library Council, Director Norma McDermott said: “Public Libraries have always had a mission to providing a space for all, and library management and staff are committed to providing a welcoming and quality service to everyone in the community. We are delighted to join with TRUST in this project and thank library staff around the country for their support.”

TRUST Calls for Urgent Plan to Prevent TB Epidemic

Alice Leahy, Director of TRUST, the health and social service for people who are homeless, today said the increase in the reported cases of TB is especially worrying for people who are homeless, one of the most vulnerable groups in the spread of this disease. This increase also represents a very serious public health problem and vindicates the stand taken by TRUST two years ago in opposing the downgrading of Peamount Hospital as the state’s only specialist national TB treatment centre.

Calling for an urgent national plan to help prevent a major outbreak Alice Leahy said that TRUST has been helping to treat people who are homeless with TB since the organisation was set up over thirty years ago and is acutely aware of how important Peamount Hospital was in helping to control this disease.

“This is a classic case of those in front line caring roles not being heard when they have the first hand experience necessary to really protect public health. However, our concern is that this management failure, unless corrective action is taken, will once again be borne by the most vulnerable. Indeed, the decision to downgrade Peamount was incomprehensible at a time when the disease is beginning to prove resistant to the treatments available. We do not wish to cause any unnecessary alarm but if the State is justified in preparing for the H5N1 virus when it has not even arrived on our shores, surely the case for investing in controlling TB which is already very active in the community is urgent,” Alice Leahy said.

Rights of Patients of State’s Mental Hospitals Must Be Protected When They Are Sold to Developers

Alice Leahy, Delivering Opening Address at 25th Annual Nursing and Midwifery Conference at the Royal College of Surgeons

Urging nurses to become advocates for the most vulnerable, Alice Leahy, Director and Co-Founder of TRUST, said that the recent and welcome announcement that the Department of Health proposed to sell off the state’s mental hospitals’ was unfortunately not matched by an equally clear and unambiguous commitment to provide appropriate accommodation for the many patients affected who are now to be treated in the community.

Addressing the 25th Annual Nursing and Midwifery Conference at the Royal College of Surgeons Alice Leahy said we were on course to repeat the mistakes of the past: “Many of the people we meet who are homeless on the streets of Dublin have been patients in mental hospitals. They are living proof that the plan to close the mental hospitals and move services into the community over twenty years ago has not been a resounding success to date because inadequate services were provided in the community. Will we allow the same thing to happen again?”

Alice Leahy said that when the recent mental health strategy report was published it provided no compelling answer as to how the accommodation needs of patients were to be met, when the hospital were sold off, except to suggest that this ultimately was the responsibility of the local authorities. “However, at a time when over 40,000 are on the waiting list for housing such an approach represents a refusal to honestly demand that the most fundamental right of a very vulnerable group are properly protected because they would risk being left at the bottom of any list.”

Alice Leahy also pointed that after this obvious omission in the proposed strategy was strongly highlighted the Minister did respond with an idea, which was hastily leaked to a national newspaper, but still leaves many questions unanswered: “Only after some of us protested loudly did the Minister respond with the proposal that when the Mental Hospitals are sold for development, each developer will have to give an undertaking that a certain amount of housing will be provided on each site for those affected. This was revealed exclusively on the front page of The Irish Times on Saturday the 11th of February but sources suggested that it would be several months before the tender documents appear and we know the full details of what is proposed.

“Now we are all aware what happened regarding the proposal that a percentage of each new housing development had to be made available for social housing. Developers were allowed to buy their way out of that responsibility by making a contribution to the local authority. Will the same be allowed to happen in respect of people with mental and psychiatric problems?”

Alice Leahy said that nurses will have a unique opportunity to make a difference on this issue as they are going to be redeployed from the mental hospitals into community psychiatric care teams. However, if a strong stand is not made before the hospitals are sold it maybe too late to ensure that the right of patients to decent accommodation is safeguarded. Calling for the immediate appointment of independent advocates for patients in each hospital affected, Alice Leahy said that given the unfortunate history of how this transition process has been handled in the past we risk witnessing much needless suffering unless appropriate action is taken now.

“We need special safeguards to protect the human rights of these very vulnerable citizens. Independent advocates should be appointed to look after their interests during the transition to ensure that they do secure their right to appropriate accommodation and to prevent anyone becoming homeless. Indeed, the failure of the Minister when announcing the new mental health strategy to acknowledge the mistakes that have been made in the past make the concept of the advocate in this instance especially important,” ALICE LEAHY said.

Calling for nurses and doctors who will make up the proposed community care teams to become advocates in the areas where they will be based for their patients, Alice Leahy said this will also help to ensure they receive a more positive welcome by helping to allay the unnecessary fears that sometimes arise.

Pointing out that it is ironic that homelessness and mental illness both carry a stigma in Irish society and often impose a deep sense of isolation on the people affected, Alice Leahy appealed to nurses working in the community to be especially sensitive to the needs of those suffering from feelings of isolation and exclusion in all situations, even within families, because often that can ultimately lead to an individual becoming homeless.

TRUST Launches – Building Trust in the Comminuty – National Initiative To Mark 30th Anniversary

“This is an invitation to everyone to stand with the outsider as nothing will change until we start to make everyone feel wanted” : Alice Leahy

Picture shows Alice presenting Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD with a copy of the TRUST DVD launched as part of the TRUST National Project – Building Trust in the Community.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern T.D. and Pat Kenny of RTE helped TRUST, the social and health service for people who are homeless, today (Tues. 22 November, 2005) launch what Director Alice Leahy described as a very ambitious national project to give people the chance to help “to change attitudes towards those who are homeless, and to make those who are excluded and outsiders in Irish society feel wanted”.

Building Trust in the Community is an initiative by TRUST in association with The Irish Times and is sponsored by ESB Electric Aid and Alice Leahy said that it seeks to build on the considerable work already going on in many communities across Ireland by people who make time for those who are excluded.

The project was created in response to the many calls received by TRUST from people in different parts of the country especially to help answer the question: what can I do? Alice said the project aims above all to help people understand the nature of homelessness and why TRUST asks people to consider those who find themselves homeless on the street as outsiders. They feel alienated and unwanted and find it hard to cope and unless we recognise that they need more than accommodation nothing will change she added.

People who are homeless on the street probably experience the most extreme form of social exclusion and in that sense are the most identifiable outsiders in our midst. But those who speak out on their behalf in a society that seems to place inordinate emphasis on conformity risk finding themselves excluded as well. That experience also led Alice Leahy to write “Thirty Years Working on the Outside” a paper which is published today as part of the project, highlighting how little or nothing has changed for the outsider since TRUST was founded in 1975.

“Some people find it hard to understand why we say things are worse for the outsider in Ireland in 2005 than it was in 1975 when TRUST was founded. We may have achieved much material success but many of us are equally less tolerant of those who cannot keep pace and fall by the wayside. The price of accommodation has soared and it has forced some people out onto the street but there exclusion is also due to our increasing inability as a society to find space and understanding for those who cannot cope and fit in,” Alice Leahy said.

There is a collective deception that is all is well when clearly it is not and everyone is expected to be successful and not let the mask fall she said noting that society has always had a good percentage of people who “go against the grain.”

“We have learned a great deal from the people who come into to us everyday and this project is an attempt to share that understanding with everyone. People end up on the street because they become cut off and alienated from the world. They need a place to stay, but they also need to be treated as people, with dignity and respect, and made to feel wanted again. That will not happen unless more of us are prepared to stand with them and this is hopefully what this project will help people to do,” Alice Leahy said.

BUILDING TRUST IN THE COMMUNITY – THE PROJECT

Alice Leahy said TRUST is extending an invitation to any group to apply for a free DVD, called Building Trust in the Community, as a starting point of what is hoped will grow, from the ground up, into a national debate on the way we treat the outsider in Irish society. Each group that receives one is asked to host an informal showing and a discussion about the issues raised before passing on it on to another group.

“We want to create an information or awareness chain reaction and ensure that the one thousand DVD.s we have produced will be seen and used by at least 100,000 people. It is only takes one person to make a decision to help others to make a real difference for someone, but if more people do that the lives of many of those on the outside will be transformed. This is not an unrealistic ambition but a very real opportunity to make a big difference for those who feel no one cares,” Alice Leahy said.

Any “group” can apply for a free DVD including community groups, women’s groups, branches of trade unions, Rotary, Chambers of Commerce, adult education groups, religious communities, etc. The secretary or representative of a group just needs to email info@trust-ireland.ie or write to TRUST, Bride Road, Dublin 8, undertaking to host a viewing and discussion and then pass it on to another group after they let us have their ideas and suggestions.

“The most important aspect from our point of view is what people think, especially the reaction, and the ideas and suggestions that emerge from the discussion. We are asking people to ensure they email us back their comments so that we too can learn more and share them with everyone else who participates. If we are going to fundamentally alter society’s attitude towards the outsider we must be prepared to be open with each other and recognise that this will be a very challenging process,” Alice Leahy said.

In addition TRUST is also making available through its web site additional resources, drawing on its experience, to help people consider what it means to be an outsider. These resources include the full text of Alice’s paper Thirty Years Working on the Outside which can be downloaded as well as a radio documentary called The Outsiders which will also be launched and broadcast on the TRUST web site in December.

“We are a very small agency with a focus on our hands on work. We have developed this project around the web site because it allows us to maintain our personal focus on the people who come in to us everyday, but at the same time share the insights and experience we have gained,” Alice Leahy said emphasising that using the web has allowed TRUST despite its small size to reach out to the country as a whole and garner the kind of feedback that can help mobilise real change for the outsider in Irish society.

TRUST is a non denominational, non party political body that provides health and social services for people who become homeless. TRUST is also committed to sharing the insights gained in its everyday work through education and advocacy. More information about TRUST can be found on our web site: www.trust-ireland.ie

Note to editor

The DVD Building Trust in the Community is being made available free to any group in the community that requests one because TRUST secured sponsorship for this initiative. However, we are also making it available to anyone who requests a copy at the nominal price of €10, as this is not a fund raising project and only covers handling and related charges, on the basis that they will also share it hopefully with family, friends and work colleagues and let us have some feedback including their ideas and suggestions which we are requesting from the groups that get the DVD for free. As TRUST has already made videos available free to schools as part of the TRUST National Art Competition and Essay Competition, both on the theme of the outsider, it is not able to make the DVD available free on this occasion. However, given the nominal price of the DVD it is hoped that those interested will not be deterred from acquiring a copy. Copies of the DVD can be obtained by sending a cheque for €10 to TRUST, Bride Road, Dublin 8.

The paper “Thirty years of TRUST” written to coincide with this launch can be found here.