Our Impact: Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives

Tragically, the number of people who rely on us for accommodation, healthcare and support has drastically increased as the homeless crisis has spiraled. It’s the worst we have ever seen. When we first opened our doors in 1969, we never could have predicted that our services would be so desperately needed, by so many, more than 50 years later.

In the last five years, as the crisis has deepened and touched the lives of far too many people, we have expanded our services and increased our response to ensure we are a shining light of hope for people in their darkest hour of need.

During the life span of this crisis, Dublin Simon Community’s dedicated teams of staff and volunteers have vigorously worked to provide vital and life saving services to people in Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare, Meath, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan. They sit by their side on the pavements, support them through ill health or bereavement and advocate on their behalf to keep them in their homes with their family.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a reassessment of our lives.  Dublin Simon Community was at the frontline of this healthcare crisis, showing dedication and creativity in weathering this most difficult storm.

Click the image below to see the full report

Thank you to our supporters, thank you for everything you do to help us to make an impact on this devastating crisis. In these, the most uncertain of times, we must continue to be that backbone for people and ensure that thousands of vulnerable people know that they are not forgotten and there are people who care.

Who We Support

Homelessness is not as far away as people may think, especially in these tough and uncertain times. It really can happen to anyone. It is never a choice. Simon is a place that people turn to. Please click on the links below to read further stories from our clients.

“I’ve done everything from couch surfing to sleeping in alleyways, the worst kind of nights you can imagine. You’ve nothing to do, you’re literally walking the streets 24/7 with nowhere to go. I could easily have covered about 10 miles a day. It’s so mundane and repetitive.”

“Wintertime is horrible when you’re sleeping on the streets. With the damp weather, the rain and the cold, it was pretty rough.”

“I don’t know how many times I’ve had hypothermia from sleeping out. When it starts coming on, you’d feel the shivers start but try to ignore them if you’re trying to get to sleep. When your body does start responding and tries to start moving, you start to spasm so much. That’s just your muscles trying to get energy going again. It’s a horrible feeling.”

“The Simon Community Soup Run was a lifeline. They’d turn up at very regular times in different parts of the city.”

“If you weren’t in those areas they’d do the rounds in different places and come and find you. You wouldn’t even have to ask, whatever they had they would give to you, clothing, some food or a hot drink.”

“I’ve gone through homelessness and I’ve come out the other end of it. I’m living in housing provided by the Simon Community now. My apartment is amazing and there’s a lovely garden. I’ve got a bed and a roof over my head. There are privacy and mutual respect among all the residents. My health is back to normal.”

“I’ve done extremely well, but places like the Simon Community are crucial, without a doubt.”

For people like Sinead*, being part of our community has been the most important part of her journey out of homelessness.

“I was rough sleeping about a year. I slept in parks, in a squat, down lanes, in shop doorways. To be honest with you, I don’t know how I coped. It was very very scary.”

“You’re living in a different world. I felt I was invisible to everybody. People are just left there, invisible and forgotten.”

“I wasn’t eating. I had chest infections. My feet were sore from walking all day. I was very tired, very down. It was hard to cope with the little things let alone trying to cope with being on the streets itself. It can happen to anyone and people don’t realise that.”

“One morning I woke up and I looked around where I was. I just nearly died inside, I nearly crumbled. I thought things couldn’t get any worse.”

“I couldn’t have kept going on the way I was, but I couldn’t see a way out of it at that stage. I was so stuck in what I was doing I didn’t actually know where to go and get help.”

“The Simon Community hadn’t forgotten about me. They got me off the streets and saved my life. I’m very grateful for that, I really am.”

“My first interaction with Simon was with the Rough Sleeper Team. They told me about Ushers Island, that they do a proper medical detox and you can go onto recovery.”

“It’s such a change going from a crazy world into the Simon Community where you have a warm bed, you have food and a shower and most importantly you have staff and volunteers around you that actually care.”

“You’re going through this process of recovery with people and even though we’re all at different stages we’re all going through it together. We’re all there to support each other and we all learn from each other.”

“It’s coming from where people are walking by you on the street to coming into this family. You’re a part of this community and there’s not one person there that doesn’t care.”

“It’s really important to feel part of a community and feel wanted like that because you don’t feel like that when you’re on the streets.”

“The teams here give you support and teach you new ways of coping. It’s going forward and trying to make a life for yourself. It’s all about the journey getting there. I want to think of the future because there’s no point in looking back. I’m going back to college and I would like to work with people. I’m going to strive for my life no matter what that means. What I’ve been through is what I’ve been through, and I ain’t going back.”

Your support can help us rebuild the lives of people, just like Sinead’s life.

* Sinead’s name has been changed to protect her identity

“I was sleeping in the Phoenix Park and I went deep into depression. I just wanted to be on my own, I wanted to be isolated I just couldn’t do it anymore. There was a night shelter I used to stay in and one of the staff members said he would refer me to Simon’s Alcohol Detox service.

“When I went in I was nervous but I knew in my own heart and soul that I wanted to do it. I moved through the programme and then got a place in one of their Recovery Houses. I’m still there now. It’s a lovely house.

“I had a great key worker going through treatment. I could really trust her and I was able to tell her everything. I think in order to get the problem sorted you need to pull it from the root and work back up. She put me in touch with Simon’s Sure Steps Counselling services. My counsellor was brilliant. We just got on.

“I could feel myself changing. I was really starting to like myself again.”

“I always see the good out of a bad situation now, it wasn’t always like that, I can cope now. Maybe going through those seven years of pain with homelessness showed me how bad things were. I don’t know how many times I tried to give up drink or how many times I went to counselling, none of it worked out. Simon put everything in place for me in here and it worked.

“I first linked in with the Community Employment Scheme through my key worker in Recovery and I’ve been doing it just over a year now. The CE Scheme has been great for courses and putting everything in place that I need.

“Now when I look in the mirror I see the person I always wanted to be.”

“This morning when I woke up, the minute I got up out of the bed I was singing, just totally full of joy. It’s great to be alive I was saying to myself. That’s how I just keep going forward and forward. There’s no way I’m going back.”

“We bought an apartment over ten years ago. It was only a one bedroom so when we had my first daughter we stayed there until she was five but then tried to find somewhere bigger. The recession had hit so we weren’t able to sell, we tried renting but it just became so hard trying to keep up with rent and paying our mortgage so we became homeless and were placed in a hotel.

“It was very hard. My husband had to get up for work and try have a normal day, knowing that we were all still in one room. We were living out of black bags, as we had no wardrobes to put the clothes. There were no facilities to cook, we couldn’t have a microwave, we just had a kettle and that was it.

“I had to bring my little baby girl back to that hotel room from the hospital after she was born so it was five of us then.

“I had to wash her bottles in the bathroom sink as we couldn’t have a steriliser in the room. I couldn’t prepare meals for her.”

“We were so overjoyed when we heard a place had been found for us. I think we cried for about three days, we just didn’t think it was true, that it was real! The feeling of knowing that we don’t have to move again, I think that was the best part of it. The feeling of being here now and that’s it, we don’t have to move again, this is our home.

“The Simon Community were a brilliant support. Our keyworker from the resettlement team visited us for the first few months once a week or so, just to check in and make sure were settling in okay.

“He helped us set the place up and made sure we had everything we needed. He was a great help, I have to say and he still checks in with us to see how we are managing.”

“Homelessness really can happen to anyone. It could happen to anybody tomorrow. It’s very bad at the minute and it’s getting worse but every little bit helps. When you’re homeless and have nowhere to go, it’s great to feel that you have support and there are people out there to help you. It makes you feel a little bit better, you don’t feel as if you’re on your own in the world.

“We are so excited for Christmas. I want to make it really special this year for the kids because last year we were in the hotel, I’ve already started decorating the house! This is going to be our first Christmas in our home and it’s great knowing that we don’t have to move again. I can’t wait to just get back to what matters, just to be a family and live our lives.”

James experienced homelessness for over two years after he could no longer afford his rent.

Today, because of your support, James has recently moved into his new home at one of Dublin Simon Community’s independent housing units. He is visited regularly by his keyworker Rory from our Support to Live Independently service to help him settle into his community.

“I was homeless for over two years. I don’t know how I survived it, but I did. After I lost my home I had nowhere to go. Sleeping rough wasn’t what I wanted but I had no choice. I had to do it and that was it.

“Sleeping rough I had such fear at night time. Am I safe? Am I going to be alright? It can be so dangerous being on your own. Some nights I’d be nodding off and the next minute I would hear a noise nearby and I would be jerked out of my sleep.”

“I spent a lot of time just sitting around by myself, hoping the day would go quickly. It would be so lonely being on your own all day. I used to charge my phone up in the train station or I’d get on the train to use the sockets. There was bathrooms up in the station carpark with running water that I would use to brush my teeth and have a wash.

“It really was a boring life. I wouldn’t go back there now because I wouldn’t survive. I’m getting too old for it now. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I feel sorry for people going through it now.

“I remember one day this woman stopped to talk to me, asking how long I’d been there. She said she would drop down a dinner to me and fair play to her, she did. She used to check on me regularly when she was walking her dog, drop me down food or take my clothes for washing. You so often take these small things for granted, but they become impossible when you don’t have a home so this help meant so much.

“There was a café in the town I used to go to. I’d get a dinner there. I would try to pay and they would say, no put that in your pocket. I’d feel guilty but she would say if I was ever stuck I know where they are and to come in. The people in the town really cared about me. When I got my place I went back there to say thank you.

“Because of the Simon Community I now have my own little place and I am over the moon with it. I moved in just over two months ago and my keyworker Rory from Simon was an amazing support helping me to settle in. He comes and visits me once a week to see how I’m doing and I can call him if I need anything.

“I’m so happy where I am now. I can come and go when I want. I can get up in the morning and jump into the shower, have something to eat, a bit of toast or cereal then go out up to the town for the day.

“Before I was afraid to speak out, to put myself forward for anything or try something new. Now I’m not afraid, that fear is gone. I’ve gotten my confidence back.”

“The way I look at it, now I am happy in myself in what I have. I’ve landed on my feet here and this home is mine now, forever.”

Adam became homeless at the age of 21 and has now, with the help of Simon, been able to step into independent living.

“When I was younger I would never have thought I would become homeless. I ended up on the streets because I was an alcoholic, I can admit that now. Alcohol acted as a comfort and I was eventually asked to leave home because of my drinking. I felt like everyone in my life was giving up on me.”

Any time Adam managed to secure a long-term hostel bed his drinking would lead to him losing it again. His addiction meant he wasn’t able to break the cycle of homelessness.

“Sleeping rough was never an option that I would have chosen. The fear and loneliness were unbearable at times. I hated being so vulnerable. When you are out on the street you feel invisible, amongst all the chaos your sense of worth gets lost in the noise. I was 26 before I realised I had a problem with drink. I was so caught up in the madness that it took me years to see it.”

In an attempt to tackle his addiction Adam made contact with the Simon Community’s Rough Sleeper team who referred him to the charity’s residential treatment services. “I was treated with the kindness you need when you come in off the streets because your spirits are so low. The support and key working that they gave me was crucial. You can go from detox to rehab and then onto aftercare so the service acts as a stepping
stone towards independent living.”

With the help of Simon’s SLI (Support to Live Independently) service, Adam has through the participating groups for people who have used their services.

“I feel empowered by this opportunity as I now have a chance to give something back. I did some part-time volunteering and worked with the Rough Sleeper Team which I enjoyed as it allowed me to see the way I used to be but from a fresh perspective.”

Last year Adam completed the first year of his social work course and continues to be grateful for the role that Simon has played in helping him re-build his life.

“Simon do all they can to help you move away from the things that have been holding you down for so long, enabling you to feel a part of something again – a community and new family. But they can only give you a hand up and then you have to work at holding onto it yourself.”

Your generosity enables us to provide continued support to people like Sarah who became homeless at the age of 18 and is now, with the help of Simon, pursuing her studies and living in her own place supported by Simon.

“I grew up with my grandparents. When they passed away I wanted to stay in the house, but once they were gone, I felt lost – it didn’t feel like home anymore. So I left without anywhere else to go. I tried to stay in the hostels but there was a lot of alcohol and drugs going around and I didn’t feel safe.”

Without any support, Sarah resorted to rough sleeping.

“At the time I wasn’t dependant on drugs or alcohol, I had my little dog with me and we kept each other company. But being on the streets is a daily struggle and it wasn’t long before I started to drink a few bottles of wine just to get through the night… to get through the depression…to make me forget I was homeless. It was during this period on the streets that Sarah first came into contact with the Simon Outreach Team. Being one of the only girls on the streets is really frightening; I got bullied, beaten up and picked on. As time passed I began to take a lot of drugs, it’s unavoidable on the streets! Everyday felt like groundhog day and I wondered how it would end. However, it was always Simon that would look for me. They would make sure I was OK, had enough to eat and something to sleep on for the night.”

With the help of Simon, Sarah entered a three month residential detox programme.

Once you have been homeless you tend to stay in that cycle, I saw it with people all the time. But I didn’t want to live like that anymore. Simon took me in along with my dog; as long as I had him I knew I could get through it. While in treatment I really got myself together. I took up boxing and football with the health and wellbeing programme, something I still do with them on a weekly basis.”

This year Sarah completed her first year of a social studies course and lives in supported housing. She continues to be grateful for the role that Simon played in helping her re-build her life.

“I definitely would not be where I am today without the help of Simon. They really built up my confidence, held on to me and made me believe in myself. While in recovery I got the encouragement to apply for a course in social studies, something I would never have dreamed of doing. I couldn’t believe how well I did in my first year exams, I was so proud of myself. When I finish college I want to help people who have been through the same things I have and in some way give back to the Simon Community.

“Some days are tough but I know living with the Simon Community I have a lot of support and that really makes the world of difference.”

Mark came to Dublin Simon Community after health issues left him homeless. Today, because of the support of people like you,  Mark is now living in our permanent supported housing and is sharing his skills with clients in our services.

“I worked as a pastry chef in a hotel for over ten years. I then moved to work in a digital factory in the west of Ireland but sadly I lost my job when it closed down. I moved back to Dublin and I began to do security work but after two years I became badly ill and after a tough surgery I could no longer work. My financial situation became more difficult from month to month and eventually I was unable to pay my rent and I lost my home. I was placed in emergency accommodation for a few months. It was really hard. There were five or six people to a room and we had to leave the service each morning.

“I then moved to supported temporary accommodation with Dublin Simon Community which was really good. I used to get up in the morning and help out in the dining room with cleaning and that. I did a photography course as well. I like doing things and keeping busy. After a few months I was lucky to get a place in one of their permanent supported houses. I was delighted when I moved in and I loved it straight away. You can come and go when you like and you can have people visit you. The staff are very helpful, whatever you need they’re there for you all the time.”

“I like being helpful. I think it is important to think positive because no matter how bad you think things are for you, there is always someone going through worse.”

“I only started painting recently as part of the art classes organised by the Simon Community. It’s nice to be able to have the chance to do things that you might never have done before and I was very surprised to be told I have talent.

“For the last few months I’ve been a Peer Volunteer in our Recovery service once a week. I show them how to bake simple things that they can make themselves when they move on like crumble, cookies and different types of scones. It’s great and the clients love it. They couldn’t be nicer and they all want to get involved and help which is really lovely.”

“Because of what I’ve been through I can understand where the clients in the service are coming from. If you work with people rather than against them you get twice as much in return.”

“I am also part of the Client Action Group and recently we have been working on a campaign around mental health. We are trying to gather different ideas and ways of thinking to help change people’s mindsets about looking for support.

“A lot of people don’t understand homelessness; they don’t know what it’s really like. It’s not who people are, it’s just what has happened to them. Everyone comes from somewhere.”

You Can Make a Difference

A donation from you today can help us to rebuild the lives of all of the people who depend on the services of the Dublin Simon Community.