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 predicated that that our services would be so desperately needed, by so many, almost 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.

Last year alone, we increased our work by 22%, giving a helping hand to 6,200 individuals and families during the toughest of times.

Each day we are delivering outreach to people who are rough sleeping, housing for individuals and families, treatment for those dealing with health issues, support to keep people in their homes and education to get them back on their feet.

1. Preventing Homelessness

Prevention is better than cure and over the past of years our dedicated teams of staff and volunteers have increased our efforts to keep people in their homes to stop them from experiencing the trauma of homelessness in the first place.

1,373 Households were prevented or moved on from homelessness through our sustainment and resettlement services in 2017.

2. Emergency and Outreach

For people trapped in emergency accommodation or sleeping rough on our streets, our emergency services provide a lifeline. Our teams work around the clock to meet the immediate need for warmth, shelter and medical support while also linking them in with housing and support services.

In 2017, over 14,000 contacts we made on the streets through our Rough Sleeper and Soup Run teams. 1,533 people were provided with housing assistance, harm reduction and medical support by our Rough Sleeper team.

3. Education and Employability

For our clients, homelessness is a part of their story, but it is not who are they really are. Our Participation and Development services work with people to build up their self-esteem and skills to help in their journey out of homelessness.

In 2017, 482 people developed their skills and education through a variety of programmes and classes, with 60 people bringing themselves closer to employment though our employability initiatives.

4. Housing

We are continuously expanding our housing stock to provide homes for individuals and families. Over the next four to five years we aim to build 480 additional housing units to response to the ever growing need. This will be added on to our variety of existing housing stock that covers permanent and semi permanent, supported and independent, all provided to people with wraparound supports.

By the end of 2017, 612 adults and children were housed through our independent housing.

Over 205 adults and children lived in our permanent supported housing in 2017, receiving assistance with health and welfare, education and training.

5. Treatment and Recovery

The only one of its kind in Ireland, our medical residential treatment and recovery facility has grown as the need for specialist services has increased. Each year our residential detox, recovery, aftercare and stabilisation/respite services are provided alongside our counselling and mental health supports to people who are rebuilding their lives.

In 2017, 1,042 people accessed these live saving services along with 2,250 hours of counselling and mental health provided to people who are trying overcome the trauma of homelessness.

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.

Adam’s Story

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. Acohol 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 was 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 participation 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.”

Aoife’s Story

Although Aoife was very young when it happened, she still vividly remembers that terrible day.

“My mother just left the house one day”, Aoife recalls. “I was four years old. My brothers were three and two years old and the baby was only a few weeks old. We were all sitting on the floor when my father returned from work. The neighbours were with us. They said we were screaming the house down and they had to stay with us all day.”

“My father then went back to live with my grandmother. He couldn’t put all of us up so I was put in a home where there were boys and girls. My brothers went to a home where there were just boys.”

When she was 16, Aoife came to Dublin and lived in a hostel, but she could never settle. And in the years that followed she was in and out of homeless services. Occasionally, she would share a flat with friends but often Aoife found herself living rough on the streets or staying in emergency B&B’s.

Then disaster struck. As a result of years of sleeping rough in our damp Irish weather conditions, Aoife’s legs began to swell. Soon she had to use a wheelchair to get about. Almost immediately, she found the doors of many emergency B&Bs closing in her face. They would no longer accommodate her.

She ended up sleeping rough on the streets in a wheelchair.

At first, Aoife found it very hard. “I hid in places like doorways and archways. I was always afraid that if people found me asleep, I’d probably be kicked to death.” Last year, when Aoife was put in touch with Dublin Simon she was immediately given a bed in an emergency hostel and was transferred to St. James’ hospital for treatment. Since then she has moved to our high support housing accomodation. Now, she is no longer in a wheelchair and uses a walking frame to get around.

It’s been a long lonely journey. Aoife has been homeless for 32 years. Today, thanks to the support of friends of Dublin Simon like you Aoife now lives in a place that she has yearned for all her life. She proudly tells everyone…

“Here I’m home for always.”

Mark’s Story

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 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 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.”

Sarah’s Story

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 would 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.”

Sinead’s Story

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

James’ Story

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.”

John’s Story

With your help we are able to provide support to people like John who, with the encouragement and care of Simon, has moved off the streets and is looking to a bright future.

“Drink took a hold of me at an early age and I used it as a way of coping with things that were happening in my life. Before I knew it, I became homeless and ended up on the streets.”

“Living on the streets is not living, it’s an existence. You live from minute to minute. You walk with your head down. I didn’t want anybody to see me or notice me, I felt worthless.”

John came into contact with the Simon Community’s Rough Sleeper Team who referred him to Simon’s Treatment and Recovery services.

“I remember the day I made the decision to get the help I needed. I was suicidal, I’d just had enough. I was drained, both mentally and physically. When I came to Simon I had no skin on the bottom of my feet from walking the streets, my body was totally shattered.”

As his recovery progressed, John got involved with Simon’s Health & Wellbeing service that promotes and encourages exercise, nutrition and relaxation techniques.

“Simon helped me find myself again. Before I became homeless I played Gaelic, rugby, hockey, soccer and table tennis. You name it, I did everything! It was amazing to be given the opportunity and support to get back to what I loved.”

To coincide with RTE’s Operation Transformation programme, the Health & Wellbeing service introduced a similar routine for Simon clients. The service ran weekly classes on healthy eating and fitness.

“My time with Simon has been truly life changing. With the support of the guys in Simon, I focused on running and rebuilding myself. Before I knew it I ran five miles. I haven’t run that distance for 30 years! The programme has taught me discipline and routine.

“There’s more to homeless people than some might think, there are many hidden talents. I plan to go to college in September to study health and fitness. I want to become an instructor to work with young people with addiction issues, to help prevent them from going down the wrong path. People have said I’d make a good coach.

“Just five months ago I was so low, I contemplated suicide. It’s the furthest thing from my mind now. As far as I’m concerned it’s onwards and upwards. Sometimes you need a kick start and Simon gave me the kick start I needed.”

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.