News

“We should pay heed to Mannix’s firm views” | Irish Daily Mail 4th September 2019

Regarding the Brenda Power article headlined, ‘So who will dare back him?’ (Mail yesterday) – we [Alice Leahy Trust] have been working with people labelled homeless in our capital city for over 40 years.
We regularly say that we should not be here looking at the amount of money that has been spent over the years in the field of homelessness. Councillor Mannix Flynn is a man who has a huge experience of poverty and, more importantly, he has the courage to say it as it is with honesty. He has been doing this in relative isolation far too long. Too many people, including some public representatives, say privately they agree with him but haven’t the courage of their convictions to speak out. ‘The reality is that there is almost no tolerance of any alternative voice on the issue of begging and rough sleeping in the capital of our country. If you are to suggest that the epidemic of begging might perhaps not all be the fault of society then you are labelled a bigot and a fascist’ – how true those words from Brenda Power are.
We can only make some progress in dealing with these issues if we are confident enough to say it as it is and mature enough to listen to the alternative voices.

ALICE LEAHY,
director of services,
Alice Leahy Trust, Dublin 8

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.