The experiences of Simon Community service users during the Covid-19 pandemic

This small-scale qualitative study explores the experiences of service users across Simon Communities of Ireland’s services, during the various phases of the Covid-19 pandemic in the period March 2020 – August 2021.

“When you’re on the streets you give up, you really do just give up...So, like accommodation is key. Accommodation is key because once you have four walls and a roof then everything else is a bonus…”

The report, the second in a series of three (Finnerty and Buckley, 2021; Finnerty, Cullinane and Buckley, 2021) adds to the overall stock of knowledge about service users’ experiences of housing and homelessness service provision during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to our understanding of the overall efficacy of the pandemic response by service providers such as the Simon Communities.

“I was sleeping better because… it was just warmer and I felt a bit more…I felt like I had someone in my corner and they were listening to me.”

The interviews with service users reflect a substantial diversity in housing circumstances, experiences and perspectives of how they, with the support of Simon, navigated various existing and new challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Findings in several areas – decongregation of emergency settings, Covid-19 health impacts, keyworking and tenancy sustainment supports, staffing, health and health service utilization, and housing circumstances – resonate with the first phase of this research project, as well as findings from Irish and international research.

For example, Simon’s progress in decongregating emergency accommodation in the interests of mitigating the risks of Covid-19 transmission, explored in the first report (Finnerty and Buckley, 2021), is reflected positively in the experiences of a number of service users interviewed for the present study.

These included instances of service users who benefitted from greater personal space within emergency accommodation (and from various efforts to improve the liveability of emergency accommodation), as well as those who attributed their own exit from emergency accommodation into supported accommodation to the decongregation process.

Less positively, the case of the service user in shared accommodation in the community who described the destabilising impact of multiple movers into their house illustrates the risk of insufficiently managed resettlement during rapid decongregation.

“I felt safe and warm for once, which is nice. I think they made it feel like a home as much as they could under the circumstances, they were under. Which is not always easy…”

This is the second in a series of three reports.

The first report offers an initial evaluation, by Simon and statutory managers, of the responses of the Simon Communities to the first wave of Covid-19. Systems accelerant? The responses of Simon Communities to first wave Covid-19(Finnerty and Buckley, 2021).

The third report offers a more comprehensive evaluation, again based on interviews with Simon and statutory managers, of the responses of the Simon Communities during the four waves of the pandemic in the period March 2020 – August 2021. Sustaining the accelerant? The responses of Simon Communities to four waves of Covid-19 (Finnerty, Cullinane and Buckley, 2021).

Joe Finnerty, Mark Cullinane and Margaret Buckley at the School of Applied Social Studies at University College Cork conducted this second phase of the research series.

Download the Report