In the 1970s Alice Leahy left nursing to work and live in a Dublin homeless shelter. This is the story of her life and life choices, from an empowering childhood, with free run of a big house estate in Tipperary to her invaluable work with some of Ireland’s most marginalised people, at The Alice Leahy Trust, in Dublin.
Alice has always been an important voice in the debate around homelessness in Ireland. An insider with an outsider’s eye, this is the memoir of an untypical life from a radical humanitarian who has always believed that anything is possible.
The Stars Are Our Only Warmth tells powerful truths about Irish life and the people who taught Alice what it is to be alive in this world.
I was very moved by her memoir, which I read cover to cover… you dealt with all the people who fell through the cracks … very inspirational
This inspiring chronicle of a lifetime dedicated to alleviating the suffering of those unfortunate enough to be homeless is humbling in its affirmation of humanity and gritty compassion. It tells us how despite the bureaucratic red tape and the impossibility of systems to show individuals the unique recognition and validation we all need to heal and get well; some special, singular individuals can and do make a difference, often the difference between life and death, by taking the time and having the courage to make someone feel cared for and valued, despite all of the shame and sigma they carry and are subjected to; they can eventually be helped to feel worthy of care and eventually seek help and then just maybe to have some care towards themselves. In a world where individuals are judged not on their own unique personalities and merits, but rather on preconceptions regarding the group they belong to, Alice Leahy lights a beacon of hope, and inspiration. With no trace of posturing she takes us on the warm, inspiring journey of a girl born and raised in Fethard, County Tipperary, and allowed to grow and develop under the loving, practical, empowering wing of her parents, and strong, inspiring female role models … The value of this book is that it demonstrates that in the face of ever increasing dehumanising forces like: globalisation, technological change, inter and intra national economic inequality, nationalism, and religious extremism; individuals can and do make a stand in choosing to recognise and work with, the dignity of the individual and as Alice Leahy has done, turn away from social mainstream careers, roles and preconceptions, to foster and fan that fragile flame of hope, self-belief and creativity we are all entitled to. Also, when all else has failed to simply bear witness to the passing of a human life and to ensure that they are not alone on their last journey.
Leahy, with the assistance of journalist Catherine Cleary, wrote a memoir that serves as both a slice of social history and a road map to understanding today’s inability to address the housing emergency. What comes across in the pages of The Stars Are Our Only Warmth is how Leahy managed to combine a hard-headed pragmatism with a humanity devoid of any judgement … The Stars Are Our Only Warmth is a cracking read that also injects a little faith in humanity at a time when it’s sorely needed'
a wonderful, warm memoir … a wonderful social history … a hard read but it is also a wonderful read … this book will deepen our understanding of what’s needed and what more we can do
This is the story of Alice Leahy, and a book about the beauty and dignity of human beings even when cloaked in poverty, addiction or mental health problems … The heroic people both housed and homeless who she encounters are chronicled as entries in a ledger book of dignity, respect and love. Leahy is an outsider herself and it is clear she likes it like that but, standing separate as she does, she makes a bridge to those much further out than she and brings them back a little from their exile. Hers is not a sentimental story but a gritty adamantine determination to bring to the tribe of the disaffected comfort in the face of bleakness. She is not out to change people or to pry into their lives and the choices they have made. She makes it her mission to give the basic needs of comfort, care and respect and if they share their stories that is received in a centred place, heard and not judged … This is a rich and full account but yet there is a piece held back. The open and generous gift of a life lived in the service of the dispossessed still has need of a personal space and Leahy remains enigmatic and private, despite a life’s work out on the streets of Dublin and in the public eye. What you do see is the undaunted warrior, the difficult agitator, the practical nurse, the decent woman tender in compassion. This is not the story of a saint but someone far better, a soldier in the service of love. But it is more than that. It is a great read and a great gift for Christmas.
If you buy one book this year, buy Alice Leahy's The Stars are Our Only Warmth'
searingly honest, rightly hardhitting and wonderfully written … [Alice has] a masterful way of capturing the spirit of different periods in [her] life. It should be required reading for politicians, ‘executives’, managers
a women of immeasurable courage and her story is extraordinary
the book is so special it should be compulsory reading for every politician
a memoir to warm hearts
Very highly recommended
We need more like her ... there is a nugget of wisdom on practically every page. It seems to me that this book should be required reading for every policy maker in the country ... for the lay reader this book will teach us that the 'hopeless cases' we pass on the streets on our visits to the capital are as deserving of love and attention as anyone. It's an absorbing read
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