The founding of the Simon Community

Simon Community was founded in London in 1963 by a prison-based probation officer Anton Wallich-Clifford. Through his work, Anton identified that street homeless people were seeking shelter in the only place they could survive the winter. Recognising the system could not meet their needs, Wallich Clifford developed a new model of service for people experiencing homelessness based on the principles of care, community, voluntarism and campaigning.

By 1969, Anton Wallich Clifford had identified significant numbers of Irish people among the homeless on the streets of London and came to Ireland to recruit volunteers and seek support for the work of his community. Following Anton’s visits, his approach attracted a great deal of support and new Simon Communities quickly formed in Dublin (1969), Waterford and Limerick (1970), Cork (1971), and Dundalk (1973), although Waterford and Limerick didn’t survive very long. Also, in 1973, a National Office was established to help recruit full-time volunteers and act as a campaigning and coordinating group under the banner of the Simon Communities of Ireland. In 1979, Galway Simon was founded and together with Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, they became a powerful advocacy group for people experiencing homelessness. In 1982, the organisation had its first major campaigning success when Cork Simon’s Senator Brendan Ryan brought the first Homeless Persons Bill to the Seanad. This Bill paved the way for the introduction of the current legal definition of homelessness and created an obligation on Local Authorities to provide support for people at risk of, or, experiencing homelessness.

Simon in Ireland

In 2002, the Simon Communities of Ireland (National Office) identified a growing need for homeless services outside of the major urban areas of Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, and Galway where they operated. Over the following four years, new Regional Simon Communities were established in the Midlands, Mid-West, North West and South East, to develop the types of services needed in each part of the country. In 2004, a Review of Homelessness in the North West recommended the development of a Regional Approach to Homelessness that would support people who needed help to either find or maintain permanent accommodation, in their local area. The idea was to provide a Housing Led response to homelessness which delivered local solutions for people without the need to first move to the nearest large town or city, or even further afield, to get help, seek anonymity during a time of crisis, or gain access to specialised services. You can read more about the extent to which that goal has been achieved on the other pages on this website.

Preventing and Resolving Homelessness