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.