Simon Community play vital role here

North West Simon Community has seen a 20% increase in the number of people seeking its support this year.

North West Simon Community has seen a 20% increase in the number of people seeking its support this year.

The organisation is working to prevent homelessness in the North West Region and focusing on homelessness in Donegal during Simon Week 2011.

This week, October 3 – 9, is Simon Week 2011, a national awareness campaign aimed at creating awareness of homelessness and related issues in Ireland. This focus is timely and never more necessary.

Over the last few days we have heard reports of an increase of 26% in the number of homeless people in Dublin and the appalling vista of a 25% increase on last yeaer in the number of free meals served by Merchants Quay Ireland to people who were poor and hungry.

While in the North West Region, homelessness is not as visible an issue perhaps as in cities such as Dublin, nonetheless here in Donegal there has been already been a 20% increase in the number of people seeking support from our services in the first half of this year and we expect that this will continue to increase for the remainder of 2011.

It is important to note that homelessness not only relates to people who are roofless i.e. those without shelter of any kind, whether they are sleeping rough or in unacceptable conditions such as a car, tent or derelict building (squat).

Homelessness also includes the following:

- People who are houseless in that they have a place to sleep but it is only temporary in an emergency shelter, hostel or institution such as hospital or prison.

- People living in inadequate housing, people living in unfit housing or in extreme overcrowding.

- People living in insecure housing, people who have insecure tenancies, who are at threat of eviction, who experience or are at threat of domestic violence.

How does North West Simon Community respond?

North West Simon Community works to prevent homelessness in Co. Donegal through provision of the following services.

Supported Housing

The aim of this project is to provide long-term quality, safe and secure housing. We work with people who have been homeless in the past, experienced difficulties with tenancies and/or been living in unsafe, insecure, unsuitable or overcrowded accommodation.

We have provided 31 apartments for single people and 11 houses for families for those who have low support needs.

The project attempts to address the issues that may have caused homelessness or tenancy issues in the past. Many of the residents participate in work or training projects during the daytime. The service user is facilitated to identify the supports they require in order to enable them to live independently. Visiting support is provided regularly to the service user on an ongoing basis and more intensively if required.

Staff currently provide a continuum of care and support in the following areas:

- Referrals to education and training programmes

- Support to access addiction and counselling services

- Links with local health services e.g. GP, CPN, Social Worker etc

- Links with Probation and Welfare services

- Links with St Vincent de Paul

- Support to access welfare entitlements, Money Advice and Budgeting Services and/or access Citizens Information Service.

- Practical support including lifeskills training to support the Service User to maintain their tenancy.

Tenancy Sustainment

The aim of this service is to prevent people who are in a home or tenancy from becoming homeless. We do this through the provision of information, advocacy and practical supports aimed at enabling people to do things for themselves and improving their overall quality of life.

These practical supports include:

- Addressing utility arrears and budgeting

- Ensuring the Service User has all their welfare entitlements

- Assistance with form filling and meeting documentation requirements

- Homemaking: assistance with cooking, cleaning and personal care

- Assistance with maintenance and decoration

- Support to access services to address health and addiction issues if required

- Support to access training and employment opportunities

- Support to use time meaningfully and access leisure and social opportunities

Settlement Service

This aims to support people to progress out of homelessness by supporting people to source suitable accommodation, assisting people to move into their new home and supporting people to maintain their new home.

These practical supports include:

- Practical assistance to source suitable accommodation and assisting the service user to move into their new home

- Working proactively with the service user to prevent and respond to issues that may put their new tenancy at risk

- Intensive work with service users to ensure they have the skills required for living independently-

- Liaise with a variety of statutory and voluntary organisations to ensure that the needs of the service user are being met

- Accompany service users to meetings with statutory and other agencies

- Ensure that service users know and understand their entitlements

How you can help

1. Simply Believe in People. Remember that people who are homeless or need housing supports are really no different to anybody else – they have the same hopes and dreams as you, your friends and family. You really can make a difference to their lives – think about it and then do it!

2. Support the work of North West Simon Community by organising a fundraising event, volunteering to assist with or supporting a North West Simon Community event. During Simon Week there are lots of opportunities to get involved: support the various coffee mornings or attend the Street collection and Street Sleep in Letterkenny tomorrow, Friday, October 7.

3. Volunteer for North West Simon Community for a fundraising event or work directly with a service. Volunteer training is coming up shortly.

4. Make a donation to support the work of North West Simon in your area.

5. Raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in your workplace or school.

Claire Mc Tiernan, CEO of North West Simon Community the causes of homelessness and the need for support are complex. However, she adds: “they generally lie in a combination of structural factors such as poverty and unemployment or personal factors such as family breakdown or poor health. The people we work with are vulnerable and need our support: services are needed now more than ever. While we have received government funding for the provision of the housing through Donegal County Council, we are reliant on generous donations from the public to provide our other services and there is more to do.”

North West Simon Community acknowledges the support of voluntary and statutory organisations, with whom we work closely in the county including Donegal County Council, HSE, St Vincent de Paul, Citizens Advice, MABS, VEC, LYIT, FAS, and other community projects with whom we liaise. We also acknowledge the support of all our donors without whom we could not continue to provide our services.

Simon Week 2011 is October 3-9, with a range of activities and events throughout the country. The theme of Simon Week is Believe in People: believe in the people who turn to Simon every day, believe in the thousands of volunteers and Simon supporters, and believe that with appropriate housing, care and support people can and do leave homelessness behind them.

For further information contact: Claire Mc Tiernan, CEO, 083 334 8133 or Grainne McGettigan, fundraising and volunteer coordinator for Donegal 087 055 2478.

The main office of North West Simon Community is at the Beepark Centre, Manorhamilton, tel 071-985 5005.

The Letterkenny office is based at Colab, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, tel Tel 074 911 3505.