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Our History

Simon Community NI, like most charities, grew from humble beginnings to become an indispensable support network for people who are homeless or facing homelessness in Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland.

'Simon was created to meet the need where the need was greatest: it aims to come in where others leave off and to work for those unable to accept existing help, or for whom no adequate provision exists.' Anton Wallich-Clifford, Simon Community Founder.

Learn about our inspiring story in the timeline below

  • Belfast Simon Community Is Established - 1971
    1971 Belfast Simon Community Is Established Run by a management committee created under the auspices of the Simon Community Trust. Anton opens a house on Howard Street South in Belfast. Workers establish a soup run to reach rough sleepers. They do this on foot, walking throughout the city for several hours, four nights a week, carrying supplies of food and clothing. They are caught up in riots and shootings on several occasions.
  • 1972 Goverance Realigned A need for more workers, a shortage of funds, and political sensitivities forces the Belfast Simon Community to realign its governance. It loosens ties with the Simon Community Trust in London, and strengthens those with the Federation of Irish Simon Communities in Dublin. In practice, the Belfast Simon Community achieves relative independence from both.
  • 1974 Housing Associations The Housing (NI) Order creates housing associations funded by the Department of the Environment. Belfast Simon Community is instrumental in establishing the Open Door Housing Association.
  • Save Simon - 1976
    1976 Save Simon The 'Save Simon' campaign raises considerable funds, including grants from the Eastern Health and Social Services Board – Belfast Simon Community's first government funding. This places the Simon Community on a more secure financial footing.
  • 1983 Emergency Access House A new Emergency Access House, for people who are sleeping rough, is opened on Cliftonpark Avenue. Belfast Simon Community and Extern – a charity working with former prisoners – establish the Council for the Homeless (Northern Ireland). The Council will represent the interests of people who are homeless, lobby government for support, and raise awareness of homelessness in the wider community.
  • 1984 Major Success The Council for the Homeless enjoys a major success when the Minister for Housing and Social Services agrees to introduce legislation to support people who are homeless in Northern Ireland. (Legislation is passed in 1988.)
  • 1985 Simon Community Northern Ireland Belfast Simon Community changes its name to Simon Community Northern Ireland. The management committee establishes the Housing the Homeless Fund. Its proceeds will go to establishing houses in towns throughout Northern Ireland.
  • 1986 New Property Built Belfast Simon Community's involvement in the Open Door Housing Association bears fruit when a new property, built to the Association͛s specifications, opens on Cliftonpark Avenue.
  • Newry House Opened - 1991
    1991 Newry House Opened Simon Community NI opens a house in Newry, the first outside Belfast.
  • National Sleep Out - 1992
    1992 National Sleep Out Simon Community NI's expansion continues with hew houses opening in Larne, Coleraine, Downpatrick, and Derry/L͛Derry. A new house is also established in South Belfast. Homelessness in Northern Ireland is highlighted by a National Sleep Out, which raises vital funds for Simon Community NI.
  • Quality Standard Award - 1996
    1996 Quality Standard Award The organisation becomes the first organisation in the UK to gain the quality standard BEN ISO 9002 award, which recognises quality assurance in production, installation and servicing.
  • 1998 Rent Guarantee Scheme Simon Community NI, in partnership with NI Housing Executive launches the Rent Guarantee Scheme, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland. By 1998 the scheme has successfully assisted over 60 people who are homeless to obtain tenancies with in the private rented sector. In the same year the Belfast Foyer, which will support over 40 young people between the ages of 17 –25, is officially opened by Dr Marjorie Mowlam MP.
  • Addressing Homelessness Campaign - 2003
    2003 Addressing Homelessness Campaign The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Martin Morgan Launched our Addressing Homelessness campaign at Belfast City Hall. The Campaign sought to influence change in the key areas of public policy that affect Homelessness.
  • Homelessness In Ireland Launch - 2004
    2004 Homelessness In Ireland Launch The Simon Communities of Ireland joined together to publish a resource pack 'Homelessness in Ireland'. The resource provided information for use in worship, children's and youth groups and was distributed to clergy throughout Ireland.
  • Conway Court Opening - 2006
    2006 Conway Court Opening Simon Community NI's opens Conway Court its first accommodation provision for homeless families.
  • 2007 Harm Reduction Programme A harm reduction programme was established in the Bangor & Newtownards areas.
  • New Volunteer Programme - 2011
    2011 New Volunteer Programme A new volunteer programme was developed and implemented which included opportunities for individuals to be involved in arranging activities, providing assistance with essential skills and acting as a community ambassador.
  • Strategic Plan 2014-2017 - 2014
    2014 Strategic Plan 2014-2017 Work commenced on the development of a new Strategic Plan to drive Simon Community NI forward from 2014 to 2017. The development of this plan aimed to further align Simon Community NI to the strategic plans of its crore partners such as DSD and the NIHE. With the appointment of new Chief Executive Jim Dennison in January 2014, the Strategic Plan was refined and sent out for consultation in March 2014
  • 2017 Emergency Homeless Summit Following the tragic deaths of four people who were homeless on the streets of Belfast in early 2016 Simon Community NI called an emergency Homeless summit in April 2016. The summit brought together key stakeholders in the housing, homeless and health sectors, along with politicians and people who are homeless, to discuss how best to address the current crisis and ensure that government prioritises the issue.
  • Strategic Plan 2018-2023 - 2018
    2018 Strategic Plan 2018-2023 January 2018 saw the launch of Simon Community NI's strategic priorities for the next 5 years. Launched at our staff conference, this followed an extensive process throughout 2017 during which all our staff were consulted on what they believed was important in moving forward positively as an organisation to end homelessness for people across Northern Ireland.
  • Tenancy Sustainment Service - 2018
    2018 Tenancy Sustainment Service November 2018 saw the launch of Simon Community's new tenancy service created with support from a £50,000 Nationwide Community Grants. This service makes private renting a reality with a dedicated Support Worker recruited to help individuals and families find, pay for, and maintain the right property.
  • Annual Staff Conference - 2019
    2019 Annual Staff Conference In January, we welcomed over 140 staff from across the country to examine the issue of homelessness and acknowledge the hard work of staff and teams.
  • Staff Health & Wellbeing Strategy Launched - 2019
    2019 Staff Health & Wellbeing Strategy Launched The charity addresses key themes highlighted from an internal survey by introducing H&W initiatives.
  • Award Win - 2019
    2019 Award Win One Big Sleep Out Named Event of the Year at Institute of Fundraising NI Awards.
  • Young People’s Learning Centre Opens - 2019
    2019 Young People’s Learning Centre Opens Foyer project hosts open day to showcase their new and improved learning centre.
  • ASMR Campaign Launched - 2019
    2019 ASMR Campaign Launched Launched during Homelessness Awareness Week, prominent ASMR influencers shared our ASMR films globally.
  • Simon Community Celebrates at Annual Housing Awards - 2020
    2020 Simon Community Celebrates at Annual Housing Awards The CIH Housing Awards took place at Titanic Belfast on Friday 21 February 2020. The awards celebrated and recognised the breadth of work across the sector in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, showcasing the amazing work and inspirational people seen in communities every day.
  • Minister Outlines Commitment to Supporting Homeless Young People - 2020
    2020 Minister Outlines Commitment to Supporting Homeless Young People Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA has today seen first-hand how her Department is supporting those experiencing homelessness. The Minister visited Belfast Foyer, a hostel managed by the Simon Community for young people. At the hostel residents are provided with emergency accommodation while also receiving advice and support.
  • Charity Gifts COVID Isolation Packs - 2020
    2020 Charity Gifts COVID Isolation Packs Identifying the impact isolation can have on those experiencing homelessness, Simon Community have introduced new initiatives over the past month to keep clients entertained and in contact with friends and family during lockdown. One successful initiative taking place across 21 temporary accommodation projects is the introduction of isolation and resilience packs – made possible thanks to generous emergency COVID funding from Crisis, PBNI, LandAid, Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, Enkalon Foundation and Tesco’s Bags of Hope. The packs, which are developed in response to each project’s specific need, include items such as TVs, computer games, tablets, arts and craft supplies and mobile phone top up cards. The idea is to encourage individuals experiencing homelessness to remain onsite and socially distant by providing alternative ways for residents to keep in touch with family as well as combat their boredom.
  • £500k National Lottery Boost for Homelessness Health and Wellbeing Service - 2020
    2020 £500k National Lottery Boost for Homelessness Health and Wellbeing Service As part of World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day, Saturday 10th October, Simon Community NI is celebrating a £500,000 lottery windfall that will be used to roll out a three-year project aimed at delivering life-saving support to some of Northern Ireland’s most marginalised people. The charity, which provides homelessness shelter and support throughout Northern Ireland, will use the money from the National Lottery Community Fund NI, which has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players, to recruit six wellbeing practitioners based across five of the country’s Health and Social Care Trusts.
  • New Volunteer Role to Tackle Homelessness - 2021
    2021 New Volunteer Role to Tackle Homelessness In response to learnings from a challenging yet successful year tackling the COVID pandemic, Northern Ireland’s leading homelessness charity, Simon Community, has announced a new volunteering opportunity to help clients adjust to living in their own homes. Funded by the Housing Executive’s Homelessness Prevention Fund, the charity is seeking to find Move on Coach volunteers to assist their Housing Options team in assisting clients with moving into and maintaining their own tenancies. Based throughout Northern Ireland, and committing to two hours per week, the successful volunteers will join an experienced team and will be instrumental in carrying out a range of roles including 1-2-1 client mentoring, assisting with appointments and completing forms in addition to supporting individuals adjust to independent living i.e. paying bills and signposting to local amenities or support services.
  • Simon Community Creates New Role to Tackle Female Homelessness - 2021
    2021 Simon Community Creates New Role to Tackle Female Homelessness Between April and December 2020, Northern Ireland saw 2,248 females and 3,303 families present as homeless to the Housing Executive, who during the same period granted homeless status to 836 individuals for domestic violence reasons. Responding to the growing prevalence, and complex needs aligned to female homelessness, Simon Community has developed a new role to respond to the issue and is recruiting for the right individual to join their Belfast services.
  • Simon Community Ensures No Child Left Behind Through New Play & Learning Service - 2021
    2021 Simon Community Ensures No Child Left Behind Through New Play & Learning Service Simon Community’s longevity can, in part, be put down to the organisation’s ability to successfully adapt and meet the changing needs of homelessness and its clients. In Conway Court, the charity’s dedicated family project in West Belfast, an area of high deprivation and housing need, Simon Community identified an opportunity to further support the emotional and educational development of all 40 children within the project, during Covid.
  • Simon Community Creating Homes to Celebrate 50 Years - 2021
    2021 Simon Community Creating Homes to Celebrate 50 Years Simon Community has launched a new ‘Creating Homes’ programme to buy as well as manage 50 homes for people who are homeless as part of its 50th birthday celebrations. The leading homelessness charity supports over 630 marginalised people each day. Its priority is to prevent homelessness with tailored approaches that tackle the issue of homelessness as well as providing specialist support services for clients.
  • £150,000 Refurbishment of Scheme for Young People - 2021
    2021 £150,000 Refurbishment of Scheme for Young People Choice Housing along with their partners at the Simon Community have unveiled their latest renovation project, an investment of £150K on a supported housing scheme on the Antrim Road, Belfast which provides accommodation for young people aged between 16 and 21 who are leaving care. The scheme, known as ‘242 Antrim Road’ is owned by Choice and managed by homelessness charity The Simon Community. It provides 10 units of accommodation for young people transitioning out of care. The project, which was led by the Simon Community in partnership with existing tenants, included an extension to provide a communal area, the refurb included the kitchen and open plan lounge fully equipped with a workstation and IT equipment. This more open and welcoming space will allow the young tenants to engage and communicate with each other whilst facilitating more workshops and skills development opportunities.
  • Report unveils Northern Ireland’s growing problem of ‘hidden homelessness’ - 2022
    2022 Report unveils Northern Ireland’s growing problem of ‘hidden homelessness’ The impact of the pandemic and the increasing cost of living will push many vulnerable people into poverty and housing crisis. More people are at risk of becoming part of the ‘hidden homeless’ community that has gone largely unreported in Northern Ireland.