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,
Director of Services,
Alice Leahy Trust,