Homeless should not be used by ‘research industry’ - campaigner

Alice Leahy warns against using the disadvantaged ‘as source material’ in address

The director of one of Ireland’s oldest homeless services has warned the “research industry” against using the homeless “as its source of material”.

In an address at the Irish College in Rome, Alice Leahy, of the Alice Leahy Trust, said: "We must never forget that we are working with human beings, who for the most part have been battered by our society and who for so long have been pushed about as just another number in a cold inhuman bureaucracy."

She said that “we know research is required, but we all know reports are gathering dust all over the place”.

She said that “sometimes the only hearing the people we meet ever get is when they are being researched”.

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It was “an issue we have grave reservations about”, she said.

She said the homelesss represented “that section of our society which is the most vulnerable and the least able to battle for its rights”.

Ms Leahy said she took exception to the manner in which the death of Jonathan Corrie in December 2014 was exploited.

Mr Corrie was found dead in a doorway on Dublin’s Molesworth Street, across from Leinster House. It was claimed his death was due to homelessness.

However, last June the Dublin Coroner's Court was told by Dr Christian Gulmann, a pathologist at the Dublin City Morgue, that there was no evidence of hypothermia in the case and that Mr Corrie's death was caused by a multidrug overdose.

Ms Leahy said: “Jonathan’s name and story was recycled over and over again by media and various other groups any time the topic of homelessness was raised after his death.

“I can only imagine the pain this must have caused to his family, whom I know had tried for many years to help him in every way they could.”

She recalled how “seeing people congregate at his place of death on the first anniversary of his death and apportioning widespread blame was truly shocking. Dare I say he was unknown to many of those gathered there.”

She said that “there is a difference between houselessness and homelessness and no matter how many units of accommodation we provide, there will always be people who feel excluded and don’t fit in”.

History

Trust, a non-denominational body, was founded to provide homeless services in November 1975. It was renamed the Alice Leahy Trust in March of this year.

Located in a basement at Dublin’s Iveagh Hostel, it is funded entirely by voluntary contributions.

As part of its service, the trust provides bath and shower facilities and has been lobbying Dublin City Council to make public shower facilities available.

In the month of July last, it provided 299 showers and 269 sets of clothes, as well as 439 “consultations” for people needing help.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times