Hello 👋 Dani and Miranda here, and we are BACK to share with you another amazing interview! This time with Kirsten Hewitt from The Simon Community.
For the whole month of May we are inviting you to follow the journey of our partnered charities and the great work they’re doing to help those who are homeless during COVID-19.
DANI: Introduce yourself, the charity, & what do you guys do.
KIRSTEN: Hi my name is Kirsten Hewitt, and I am the director of homelessness for The Simon Community in Northern Ireland. We are the largest homeless provider in Northern Ireland, we have 21 accommodation projects, 382 beds, and other services. We have sports services, outreach services, addiction services, and cater to people experiencing homelessness all throughout Northern Ireland.
MIRANDA: What are the current needs amongst people experiencing homelessness, and within your community?
KIRSTEN: When it comes to helping people in our services we have a lot of individuals who live in shared communal space and shared facilities. Homelessness in itself is quite the isolating experience, and yet we’re working now in an environment where we’re all asked to isolate further and that's really challenging for our clients already. Lots of them will be dealing with mental health concerns, addiction issues, the breakdown of relationships and so our staff have done such an amazing job to play a part, they are really stepping up and doing a brilliant job at the minute to help people build their social resilience and to help with with simple things like having staff looking into buying dongles for some of our clients. They can actually have wifi to be able to access communication with their family and friends via the internet, via their phones, ipads, and other kinds of items to remain connected which is vital and so important during this time.
When we look at people who are homeless one of the biggest myths is that rough sleepers equates to homelessness and it doesn’t. There are a lot of people sitting in temporary accommodation, people who are sofa surfing , and people staying with family & friends because they don't have a home. That’s something that we really as an organisation want to highlight how important a home is, how homelessness is bigger than the people who are rough sleeping. Homelessness effects lots of different people.
DANI: Can you help us share a little hope, and give us a story.
KIRSTEN: Across our services they are demonstrating the hope that people have in relationship building. When people are faced with social isolation it is important for them to have individuals to go and talk it through. The sharing of information gives people hope that we’re all in it together, and all of us in some way are experiencing something that we need to be able to talk about. I think our staff provide that opportunity for our clients. What's really important now though is thinking ahead, how do people transition to what the new normal looks like? And how can they manage their mental health with that situation? We are being mindful of this and have started working on ways how to support people and engage with them.
MIRANDA: How can our listeners get involved with the Simon community?
KIRSTEN: Numerous ways to get involved simoncommunity.org and you'll see the opportunity to donate financially that will be used for clients in frontline services to better help and support them especially during this period. Donations of PPE will be gratefully received , donations of food and clothing. If you wish to donate or drop off anything we’ll look in supporting you where to deliver. We want to highlight our 24.7 hotline number so if you are at risk of homelessness or experiencing homelessness you can phone this number and get the advice & support you need for this time. It is 0800 171 2222, so lift the phone and phone us if you are at risk for experiencing homelessness.
Want to hear more? You can access the full interview here. A big THANK YOU to Kirsten Hewitt from The Simon Community for taking us behind the scenes, and a big thanks to YOU for being part of our social impact journey.