Believe In People

Media Releases 2014

Simon Communities Highlight Problem of Rural Homelessness

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Simon Communities are highlighting the issue of rural homelessness at the launch of a review paper on the subject in Carrick-on-Shannon today. Marian Harkin, MEP launched the paper, ‘Left Out in the Cold – A Review of Rural Homelessness in Ireland’.

Although homelessness is usually associated with urban areas, evidence from the Simon Communities around Ireland shows that it is very much present in rural areas too. The causes of rural homelessness are similar to those of urban homelessness but there are differences. The most common difference is that rural homelessness is regularly more 'hidden'. There are a number of barriers that prevent people who are homeless from accessing the housing and support that they need in rural areas.

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities said just because rural homelessness is more hidden does not mean it is not an issue.

“It is a mistake to see homelessness and housing insecurity as a mainly urban problem. It can be more acute and visible in our cities but the Simon Communities are working at capacity all around the country – in rural as well as urban areas. In rural areas people may not be sleeping rough instead they are staying with family and friends or they are living in over-crowded and unfit accommodation. Limited access to homelessness and support services is increasing the risk of homelessness in rural areas and is also preventing people from moving out of homelessness. Responses must be nationally driven but locally resourced and delivered to ensure people can remain in their communities where they have family and support networks, even when they run into housing and income difficulties. In fact, these are often the times this is most important. It is absolutely crucial that the new Ministers at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Minister Alan Kelly and Minister for State Paudie Coffey maintain momentum and direction if we are to achieve an end to homelessness by 2016.”

Geographical distance can be a barrier for people accessing services and also for service providers to reach people who are in need. All Simon Communities report that they do incur extra costs as a result of the geographical spread associated with rural homelessness. For the Communities, the cost of travel to deliver services was one of their major expenses. Use of public transport by service providers is not a viable option in most areas as it is unreliable, costly and time consuming.

Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities said although isolation is a problem among people who are homeless in general, this is worse in rural areas, where people may be living alone some distance from their nearest neighbours.

“The lack of, and distance from, social activities further exacerbate this problem where people often need to travel to the nearest town to access social activities.  This can be challenging or impossible if there is no access to transport or where people do not have the resources to pay for transport. The review found that people generally know one another in rural areas and there is often a perception that homelessness doesn’t exist in their community.  Such close-knit networks can act as a double edged sword. On the one hand as a protective factor against homelessness with immediate community support being offered when housing or income difficulties are experienced. On the other hand, fear of stigma and shame in such small communities can prevent people from actually seeking assistance and their plight goes unknown until a crisis hits.”

 Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities said ensuring a flow of affordable housing supply, coupled with open ended support, is essential to tackling the issue.

“Social housing construction schemes must ensure that there is a range of housing options available appropriate to people’s needs, for example the provision of single housing units. It is critical that there is ring fencing of some housing units for people moving out of homelessness in rural and urban areas. It is now essential that the Government reappraises the upfront investment required to generate the flow of accommodation that, along with adequate support, would enable people who have been homeless to access sustainable housing across the country. This is especially important across the main government departments with responsibility for homelessness – Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Department of Health/HSE and the Department of Social Protection.”

 ‘Left Out In The Cold: A Review of Rural Homelessness in Ireland’ is available at  For media queries and interview requests

Helen McCormack, Simon Communities of Ireland
Tel: 01 47 27 202/ 085 8065141

About Simon Community:

The Simon Communities in Ireland are a network of eight regionally based independent Simon Communities based in Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, the Midlands, the Mid West, the North West and the South East that share common values and ethos in tackling all forms of homelessness throughout Ireland, supported by a National Office. The Simon Communities have been providing services in Ireland for over 40 years.

Whatever the issue, for as long as we are needed, Simon’s door is always open.

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Services range from
•       Housing provision, tenancy sustainment & settlement services, housing advice & information services helping people to make the move out of homelessness & working with households at risk;
•       Specialist health & treatment services addressing some of the issues which may have contributed to homeless occurring or may be a consequence;
•       Emergency accommodation & support providing people with a place of welcome, warmth & safety;
•       Soup runs & rough sleeper teams who are often the first point of contact for people sleeping rough.

About the event

This event is being hosted by North West Simon Community, who provide supports and services to people homeless and at risk of homelessness in Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim.

Date: Friday, July 18th, 2014
Time: 10.30am – 12.30pm
Venue: The Bush Hotel, Carrick on Shannon.

About the Research

The key aims of the paper were:
•       To explore the experience of rural homelessness in Ireland especially among the eight Simon Communities in Ireland.
•       To explain how rural homelessness can differ from urban homelessness and some of the challenges that arise, both for people experiencing homeless and those at risk, and service providers.
•       To explore Government Commitments in relation to homelessness and the current policy context.
•       Give recommendations addressing the issues identified

Recommendations focus on the following areas:
•       Homelessness Policy
•       Housing First/Led Approaches
•       Resources
•       Tailored services to meet local/regional needs
•       Housing Supply
•       Flexible support
•       Innovative responses
•       The inclusion of people who are homeless in rural specific schemes and developments.

The research was undertaken by the Simon Communities of Ireland National Office in conjunction with eight Simon Communities.

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