Our vision is of a society without homelessness.

Homelessness in the twenty first century is marked by its increasing diversity; we now see greater numbers of women and of young people. We see people from all of the various communities and nationalities living in Cork.

Everyone working at Cork Simon Community - whether on a voluntary or paid basis, shares a commitment to social justice and a vision of a society that embraces values of respect, inclusion and participation. Our thousands of generous donors also share those values, driven by a desire for a society that believes everyone should have fair access to housing and a basic standard of living. Such a community has no tolerance for a society that permits homelessness.

Our vision of a society without homelessness is not some far off utopia. Nor is it a vision to be achieved by some sudden transformative act. It is a vision that we have worked towards for almost 50 years. Through the application of Housing First principles – offering housing at the earliest opportunity without preconditions together with support in line with the resident's wishes, we have ended homelessness for many of those who had spent the longest periods on the streets and in shelters, and for those with the most complex support needs. More than 85% of those we housed in 2013 were still housed at the end of 2015 with just 15% having returned to emergency accommodation.

The solution to homelessness is by now well-known and the evidence is overwhelming. Ending long-term homelessness means providing housing immediately and without preconditions and providing support in housing at the necessary level for as long as needed. We will continue to do that work for as long as it's needed, embracing these fundamental work practices:



TRAUMA INFORMED SERVICES

Homelessness is more than the absence of physical shelter. For many it is a stress-filled, dehumanising and often dangerous condition which deprives people of basic needs and exposes them to a high risk of being witness or victims of a range of violent events. Many people experiencing homelessness, especially those who are long-term homeless, have at some point in their lives been exposed to other forms of trauma, including neglect and physical, sexual or psychological abuse in childhood or as adults. There is a considerable volume of research evidence which shows that people who have had repeated episodes of homelessness are more likely than those who have had a single episode of homelessness to have been abused, often in childhood. Trauma refers to an experience that creates a sense of fear, helplessness or horror that overwhelms an individual’s resources for coping.

With increasing understanding of the extent to which people experiencing homelessness may have been traumatised, it is incumbent on homeless services to incorporate an understanding of trauma in their work. This may involve shifting perspectives for staff and volunteers to understand how various symptoms and sometimes challenging behaviours can represent adaptations to traumatic experiences. All of our services are trauma-informed.

See our research report - Moving Towards Trauma Informed Care.



HOUSING FIRST

The aim of Housing First is to minimise the number of steps and the amount of time a person has to take from the point of becoming homeless to the point of being rehoused. Housing-led initiatives are predicated on making sure that people experiencing homelessness are provided with housing and any necessary supports as quickly as possible.

This model stands in contrast to so called ‘linear’ models of services where people experiencing homelessness are expected to graduate through multiple forms of emergency and transitional accommodation and associated programmes before being deemed ‘housing ready’, and provided with an offer of permanent affordable accommodation. These ‘staircase’ models have become increasingly discredited because of their ‘significantly lower effectiveness’ in ending chronic homelessness when compared to the Housing First model. Research indicates that a majority of chronically homeless people either disengage or get ‘stuck’, unable to ever complete enough ‘steps’ on the staircase to reach housing.

Housing First provides immediate or near-immediate re-housing without any requirement that people experiencing homelessness show themselves to be ‘housing ready’ before they are re-housed. Support to sustain their housing and improve their health, wellbeing and social integration is provided to service users in their own home, and use of that support is something over which service users exercise considerable choice and control.



EMPOWERMENT AND RECOVERY

The Housing First approach to addressing homelessness has been strongly influenced by the ideas of the “Recovery Movement" which emerged within mental health services in the 1980s. At the centre of the recovery approach is the idea that people who have experienced catastrophic life events called ‘mental illness’ can recover - and have recovered. Recovery is seen as a process and a personal journey as opposed to a destination. Central to this journey is the discovery of personal resourcefulness, meaning and growth, within and beyond the limits imposed by the ‘mental illness’ or indeed by the experience of long-term homelessness.

During this change the person recovers or reconstructs a positive and valued sense of identity and purpose. The individual’s view of him or herself as primarily a person with a ‘mental illness’ or as a ‘drug addict’ or a 'homeless person', without power or agency changes through a reclaiming of personal control and a positive sense of self – as an emotional, spiritual, social being. Recovery is characterised by a reclaiming of a belief and trust in oneself, a recovery of one’s voice, and a belief and hope in an ability to live a meaningful contributing life, despite the continued presence of many challenges.

A recovery orientation focuses on overall individual well-being. It ensures that clients have access to a range of supports that enable them to nurture and maintain social, recreational, educational, occupational and vocational activities. Recovery orientation is often linked to trauma-aware practices. This requires a focus on the client’s individual needs and an understanding of where the client is coming from and the issues they have faced in the past.



SOCIAL ROLE VALORISATION

The development of personal effectiveness and self-esteem have been identified as key to the overall process of recovery. The process of deinstitutionalisation and normalisation in the field of disability led to some important insights on how the experience of taking-on valued social roles led to real gains in terms of personal efficacy and self-esteem for those involved. Social role valorisation (SRV) is defined as the use of culturally valued means to enable, establish, enhance, maintain, and / or defend valued social roles for people at value risk (i.e. those who may be stigmatised and discriminated against). The overall goal of SRV is to create social roles for devalued populations that enhance their image and personal competencies.

There is good evidence that involvement in valued social roles as volunteers, trainees and group members is helpful for people seeking to leave homelessness behind them. 



SERVICE QUALITY

We endorse the view expressed in The Way Home –Strategy to End Adult Homelessness in Ireland that, “Services for homeless people must be well organised, co-ordinated and integrated and be focused on moving them out of homelessness as quickly as possible, into long-term sustainable housing”. In all that we do we are committed to providing:

  • Safer and more effective services to persons experiencing homelessness.
  • Services that are focussed on enabling people to access and sustain housing with appropriate levels of support.
  • Consistency in how persons experiencing homelessness are responded to across all of our services.

To achieve this our work is informed by a variety of Quality Standards including:

  • QuADS: Quality in Alcohol and Drug Services – Organisational Standards (2013).
  • National Drugs Rehabilitation Framework (2010).
  • HIQA – Safer Better Healthcare, National Standards for designated centres, Residential Services for Children, Older Persons, and Adults with Disabilities (2013).
  • National Quality Standards Framework for Youth Work (2010).