Helping people experiencing homelessness through counselling

Dublin Simon’s Sure Steps Counselling Service: Giving people experiencing homelessness a voice through counselling

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Dublin Simon Community Sure Steps Counselling Service* is a specialised trauma-informed counselling service for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. We provide one-to-one counselling across treatment services and housing / emergency accommodation services, weekly drop-in clinics in treatment services as well as in the Mobile Health Unit, in-reach and outreach crisis intervention and a counsellor-led emotional wellbeing group programme.

Previous trauma is only one of the issues our clients present with. Many people affected by homelessness also suffer from depression, substance use issues and severe mental health conditions. Loss is an inherent factor in homelessness. In fact, homelessness is frequently preceded by the loss of a loved one, a job or a home. The experience of being homeless is traumatic in itself. Homeless clients lack a stable home and the uncertainty of whether they are going to sleep in a safe environment or get a decent meal puts them under constant stress. The lack of financial resources, life skills and social supports makes it extremely difficult for them to change their life circumstances.

With this in mind, the counselling process therefore works towards re-building a client’s physical and emotional safety, a sense of self-efficacy and control over their lives. It is important to process past and current trauma, but equally important to simultaneously explore the client’s strengths and resilience.

Given their background, for many clients experiencing homelessness learning to trust their counsellor is a first step towards rebuilding trust with others. A lack of validation is a common theme among clients affected by homelessness. They feel judged, they feel nobody listens to them, nobody cares about them. They feel powerless and a sense of shame that is overwhelming. By listening to each individual client with an open mind, without any preconceived ideas about what a homeless person is, we build a relationship with them and improve their experience within “the system”. We try to understand what drives a client to act in certain ways rather than jumping to conclusions by sitting down with them and exploring what the problem is. At the same time, we help them expand their perspective and encourage change, taking away the blame, while empowering them to take charge in changing their current circumstances.

Addressing the issue of homelessness needs to incorporate addressing the underlying trauma that is so closely linked with the experience of being homeless. The Dublin Simon Sure Steps Counselling Service reaches out to clients who otherwise are often disregarded and helps them heal from past trauma and build healthy, supportive connections in the community.

Simon Sure Steps is an associate member of AACI. For further information, please visit the Simon Sure Steps Counselling Service page at

*As this service is funded solely by Dublin Simon Community we currently can only accept internal referrals and limited external referrals from organisations that we have service level agreements with.

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