Simon Community | History
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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
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    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
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    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
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    1991 Newry House Opened Simon Community NI opens a house in Newry, the first outside Belfast.
  • National Sleep Out - 1992
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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