First Wave Covid-19 Report Found Homeless Services were Accelerated and Need to be Maintained – Simon Communities of Ireland

A First Wave Covid-19 report conducted by the Simon Communities of Ireland has found that homeless services underwent significant change during the period, including a move towards single occupancy rooms.

The report found that successful outcomes in relation to emergency accommodation, increased engagement with rough sleepers and innovative responses to drug use, emerged through enhanced co-operation with local authorities and the Health Service Executive (HSE). 

According to Wayne Stanley, Head of Policy and Communications at the Simon Communities of Ireland, this needs to be maintained going forward. 


“Though there was a great deal of uncertainty and fear at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, there was also a recognition that this health and humanitarian crisis required swift action. The work of the Simon Communities to keep people experiencing homelessness safe and to support people to move on from homelessness is captured in this report. The report finds that the success of the interventions resulted from having good services in place prior to the pandemic and the positive collaboration between services, local authorities and the HSE.  


Clients were assessed to determine who was more vulnerable to Covid-19 and if they needed to cocoon. In conjunction with the HSE and Local Authorities, apartments, and other short-term lets were secured for these people. Thankfully, infection levels remained low among our service users and some barriers to people exiting homelessness were reduced. 


One question this report raises is why these measures were not introduced when homelessness was declared a crisis by government?”


Lead author of the report, Joe Finnerty of the School of Applied Social Studies, UCC, explaining its title, noted:


“Responses to the pandemic by the Simon Communities- working in cooperation with Local Authorities and the regional Health Service Executive – may be characterized as a ‘systems accelerant’. The term ‘system accelerant’ draws attention to the strengthened implementation of principles already espoused at policy level (the elimination of involuntary rough sleeping and long-term use of emergency accommodation and moves towards the provision of independent accommodation with appropriate supports). However, ongoing research is required to monitor whether the gains achieved by Simon services during COVID-19 will be maintained post-pandemic.”

The First Wave Covid-19 Report is the first of three reports. The first report focussed on the challenges faced by individual Simon Communities to reorganise services in response to Covid-19 from a staff perspective. The second report will focus on service users experience of how the response was developed and implemented. The third report will draw together these experiences and look at the impact that the learning from this experience can have on the national response to homelessness post COVID.


Stanley continued;


“The isolation for clients that came with the Covid-19 crisis appears to have been really challenging for some. Covid-19 restrictions exacerbated the isolation that homelessness brings.


This re-enforces our experience that the answer to homelessness is always a home. People do need that foundation in their lives. They need to be part of their communities. The best response to homelessness is to get people out of it.


Housing First and housing-led solutions to homelessness must be expanded.  We need one and two bed accommodation. They are the structural things that will provide the answer to ending homelessness. The best policies on homelessness will not work without that infrastructure.”


View the full report here – 


To attend the report launch at 10.30am tomorrow (Tuesday 23rd February), register here –


For further information contact Aileen Gaskin 087 7724 717 / Robyn Keleghan 085 800 1275 

Editor’s Notes


About Simon Communities     

The Simon Communities support over 18,000 men, women, and children. We have 50 years of experience providing homeless, housing and treatment services to people facing the trauma and stress of homelessness. We are a network of independent Communities based in Cork, Dublin, Dundalk, Galway, the Midlands, the Mid West, the North West and the South East, responding to local needs and supported by a National Office in the areas of policy, research, communications and best practice. We share common values and ethos in tackling homelessness and, informed by our grassroots services, we campaign for more effective policies and legislation regionally, nationally and at European level. Whatever the issue, Simon’s door is always open for as long as we are needed. For more information, please visit      

Services include:      

  • Homelessness prevention, tenancy sustainment and resettlement.     
  • Street outreach, emergency accommodation and harm reduction.      
  • Housing with support and Housing First services.     
  • Homeless specific health and wellbeing services (counselling; addiction treatment and recovery; and mental health supports).      
  • Personal development, education, training, and employment services.     
  • Food banks, drop-in centres and soup runs.     

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