Black and white image of Anton Wallich-Clifford, the founder of the Simon Community.Anton Wallich-Clifford, a probation officer working in London in the fifties and sixties, noticed that many of the cases he worked with at Bow Street Station had one common factor – several of the names were followed by three simple letters: NFA – No Fixed Abode. Behind these letters lay a complex and overlooked deeper social issue: homelessness.

Anton became increasingly frustrated by the consistent failure of society to address the problem in a meaningful way. Through his work with the probation services he could see the “thousands who fall yearly through gaping holes in the welfare net”. He recognised the work of many committed people and voluntary groups working with people experiencing homelessness, but equally he recognised the need for a new and radical approach to tackling the problem of homelessness.

His frustration with the persistence of the problems resulted in him founding the Simon Community.

In 1969 Anton Wallich-Clifford came to Ireland with a view to recruiting volunteers to work with the many homeless Irish people he was meeting in England. He helped establish in Dublin the first Simon Community.

Old black and white image of volunteers preparing for the Soup Run in the early days of Cork Simon
Two years later, in 1971, Anton came to Cork and advertised a meeting for those interested in helping people experiencing homelessness in and around the city. From that first meeting, a small group of volunteers began to meet regularly. This group, guided by Anton and the Simon Community philosophy and principles, lobbied local businesses and Cork Corporation as it was known at the time. They began a regular count of the number of people sleeping rough and started a nightly Soup Run, a service that continues to operate with the help of volunteers every night of the year. Cork Simon Community was up and running.

Old black and white image of service users outside Cork Simons first emergency shelter in the early seventiesEventually, Cork Simon acquired a property in the city centre to provide shelter and support for people experiencing homelessness. With the incredible support of the people of Cork – supporters, donors and volunteers, in 1996 the Emergency Shelter on Anderson’s Quay opened, which today also houses a Day Service, a high-support house and several flats.

That support from the wider community in Cork has been steadfast. As a result, we now offer care, housing and support to over one thousand men and women each year.

We also support people living in private rented accommodation, in city and county council houses and in accommodation provided by various housing associations; supporting people to keep their tenancies and to begin leaving homelessness behind. There’s a Health Team, a Drug Treatment and Aftercare service, an Employment & Training service, to name but a few.

Old black and white image from the early seventies of a former Cork Simon service userMuch has changed since that first Cork Simon meeting almost 50 years ago – services for people who are homeless have vastly improved; we have a greater understanding of the complex nature of homelessness and the complex responses that are required to tackle homelessness; the profile of people who become homeless has changed and the causes of homelessness have expanded.

But there’s also much that hasn’t changed – volunteers are as much a part of Cork Simon today as they were almost 50 years ago, perhaps more so. The support from the wider community for Cork Simon and the people we support remains as strong as ever. Our values of Community, Commitment to Care, Diversity, Inclusion, Social Justice and Voluntarism continue to guide everything we do.

Come on in - a history of Cork Simon Community

Image of the cover of the book, Come on in - a history of Cork Simon Community by Cork author, Monica McNamara.
Cork author, Monica McNamara has written, 'Come on in - a history of Cork Simon Community'. The book offers an insight into everyday life in the first emergency shelter on John Street which was open from 1972 to 1996.  Former 'workers' in Cork Simon, many of whom worked full-time in a voluntary capacity, contribute to evocative portraits of the men and women experiencing homelessness here in Cork.

'Come on in - a history of Cork Simon Community' is avaialbe for sale at Waterstones on Patrick Street, Vibes & Scribes on Lavitt’s Quay, The Gift Shop at Nano Nagle Place, St. Peter’s on North Main Street and in our online shop. All proceeds go to Cork Simon Community.