Last year I did my placement in Cork Simon Communities Outreach project. I really enjoyed this placement and as I had a lot of knowledge on this project I decided to do my Community Development project on the Outreach project.
Last year I did my placement in Cork Simon Communities Outreach project. I really enjoyed this placement and as I had a lot of knowledge on this project I decided to do my Community Development project on the Outreach project. I realised while working on the Outreach team how important the service was because when young people first become involved in street life they do so because they see no other option. Many leave situations of acute family breakdown or violent situations. They may have been exposed to alcoholism, drug addiction, abuse and have lived under the strain of poverty and unemployment. Street life seems to me like an insecure, lonely, frightening and dangerous situation for any person to find himself or herself in. Unfortunately people living on the streets are quickly exposed to alcohol, drugs, crime and prostitution. Many people do not know how to get help and many have lost contact with services. For the most part people who are out of home are not easily identified. They “hang around” and dress similarly to other people. They have however, no consistent support or care and nowhere they call home. For the most part they are invisible. This is where the Outreach Street Service’s importance comes in; The Outreach team has a good understanding of the situation among people on the streets. Outreach contacts people out of home at risk. Outreach befriends people and builds trusting relationships with people. The Outreach team provide information about services provided and the location of these services. Oliver Hoegener created ‘The Yellow Leaflet’ which Simon published and the Outreach team always carry these leaflets to give to new people on the streets of Cork. Outreach also puts people in contact with services and all street work is documented.
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The Simon Community was established in Ireland in 1969, there are now 4 Simon Communities in the Republic of Ireland; Dublin, Dundalk, Galway and of course Cork which was set up in 1971.
The philosophy of the Simon Community is the framework, which guides the community’s policies, practice and day-to-day running of its projects. The guiding principles set the parameters within which the staff work and residents live while in the community. The community’s philosophy is based on Acceptance, Community, Long-Term Care and Campaigning. The philosophy also embraces and includes, A commitment to justice, sharing, creating space for people, being as democratic as possible, being part of the wider community, providing care, support and solidarity, valuing relationships, encouraging participation, inclusiveness. The community also has a strong voluntary ethos. The community’s policy is to: Empower people, to encourage independence, to encourage people to take responsibility, to be inclusive and to facilitate those who wish to tackle any difficulties they may face such as alcohol and drug addictions etc. Change is not a primary focus, though it is facilitated where possible.
There is a strong emphasis on Confidentiality in Simon, all matters relating to residents remains confidential and all people involved in Cork Simon Community must bear in mind that all clients have a right to privacy. This enables trusting relationships to be built within and between various members of the community. All workers must respect clients as individuals with the ability to make decisions and changes in their lives, in light of their beliefs and values.
The Outreach project is a new project of the Cork Simon Community. Since January 2002, the two Outreach workers (Carmel Moore & Oliver Hoegener) have been doing intensive street work in Cork. The project is targeting ‘rough sleepers’ and offers easy access to support and advise on a wide range of issues. One of the main aims of the project is harm reduction and prevention as well as making and maintaining contact with service users on the street.
The Outreach team liaise’s with other agencies such as Drug and Alcohol Services, the Homeless Adolescent Unit and the other Drug Task Force Projects. Outreach links in with a wide number of other groups in the city e.g. YMCA, Gardai, Southern Health Board, local community groups, youth workers etc. Outreach works in collaboration with the existing Youth Homeless Drug Prevention Project as well as with other Simon projects, such as (1) The shelter; where the Outreach worker and shelter staff can establish times that the outreach team can bring people into the building to gain access to the shelters services. (2) Day centre; again the outreach team works from the day centre in befriending people and building new relationships with ‘rough sleepers’. (3) The Soup run; The nightly soup run meets between 60-80 people each week some are sleeping rough while others are living in the private rented sector or in corporation flats. The Soup Run provides hot meals, blankets, advice and companionship for the homeless. In March 2002 the Outreach team set up a Lunch run, they were aware of the need for a weekend service because places like the Upper Rooms only provide a Monday to Friday service and a lot of Cork’s homeless people were dependant solely on the soup run at weekends as their only source of food, similar to the soup run, the lunch run gives out tea, soup, sandwiches and fruit in the evening around the streets of Cork city, I think this was an excellent service to set up because while on placement I did the lunch run and it proved to get very popular after a few weeks of being established, it is only the Outreach workers which do the lunch run. The two Outreach workers work more closely with the Youth Drugs worker and liase with the volunteer co-workers on the nightly soup run.
The Crisis Services Manager who is accountable to the director of cork Simon manages outreach.
A substantial amount of money required to run the Simon Community on a day-to-day basis is raised by the community itself through voluntary fund-raising such as flag days, church gate collections, Simon shops and sponsored events. The State also contributes to the Simon Communities running costs in the form of rent. While each Simon Community is autonomous and is responsible for financing and running its own projects, all Communities work closely together and collectively form a national federation with the national office in Dublin acting as a resource, servicing and co-ordinating agency. Working together as a national body has many practical advantages and gives expression to that founding principle which states that no one community alone can ever be Simon.
From working in the Simon Community I do believe that the organisation is a very successful one. From attending weekly meetings where issues like barrings, a residents physical/mental health, issues that occurred in all areas of Cork Simon etc, were being discussed, I realised how complex it was just to run the whole project and how some decisions that were made had such a huge impact on other people e.g. a rough sleeper being barred from the use of all Simons services, these decisions really annoyed the Outreach team because then as the Outreach worker it is your duty to go out on the streets, find this rough sleeper and try to get them into other services.
Even though the whole organisation is so complex and controversial you just have to look back at Simon’s vision of society where: there is no homelessness, and compassion, respect and empathy are the core of the community’s relationships, and justice, equality and social inclusion are central to state policy.
Also the mission of the Simon Community to develop preventative strategies that will divert people becoming homeless, to campaign for the right for appropriate accommodation and responsive services for the homeless, to provide quality care, accommodation and services which support and empower people who are homeless, marginalized, vulnerable or socially excluded.
I believe that the policy of Simon and the Core Values are very realistic, Simon does not discriminate and in theory the organisation is getting stronger and providing an essential service for the homeless of Cork.
Simon Community Report 2001