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Shining a Light on Corporate Kindness

03 December 2018

Simon Community NI’s chief executive Jim Dennison talks to Ulster Business about the vital role corporates have played in a challenging year for the homelessness sector

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For many, Christmas is a time for secret Santa, office parties and quality time with loved ones. But for those with no home, the season can be a difficult and lonely time. 

It goes without saying that 2018 has been a harrowing year for the homelessness sector with 20,000 children on housing waiting lists, on average 49 adults each day registering as homeless and countless individuals across the country sleeping on sofas. More alarming, around three people die per week whilst waiting for a home. These are horrendous statistics. 

As Northern Ireland’s leading homelessness charity, Simon Community NI sees first-hand the realities of homelessness right across the country – supporting young people, families and those with poor mental health. 

However, as the crisis worsens, we have found ourselves with a budget cut of 5% issued by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) and Department for Communities. This is in addition to the fact that the sector has seen no budgetary uplift in over 10 years. Commenting on the organisation’s response to rising demand and budgetary restrictions, Simon Community NI’s chief executive, Jim Dennison, highlighted the ever-growing importance of corporate partnerships.

Sometimes I wonder if the chief executives, managers and staff who support our charity each year truly know the difference they make. I can imagine that it might be difficult for some to visualise how their marathon, abseil, sleep out or hike helps save live and end homelessness.

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However, the monies raised ultimately allow us to provide things like emergency heating payments to those in need. Also, the corporate volunteering opportunities go a long way to creating a homely and friendly atmosphere for clients living in hostels. Simply put, without corporate partnerships, we could not support in the way that we do.

Jim Dennison – Chief Executive, Simon Community NI
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Jim shared the story of Jack, a previous client, to detail the difference a year can make to someone experiencing homelessness if given the right support.

Last year, Jack cut his finger on a holly wreath, a small injury by all accounts. However, due to a weakened immune system brought on by the stresses of homelessness, he developed blood poisoning and spent Christmas in a coma. This year, Jack connected with Simon Community NI and, after spending 100 days in a hostel, was supported on to independent living. This Christmas, he will put up his own tree before celebrating the season with his daughter and grandchild in New Zealand.

Jim Dennison – Chief Executive, Simon Community NI
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The future of Simon Community NI will involve carrying on the good work it has been doing and using corporate partnerships to innovate the charity.

Partnerships help us grow awareness, think differently and generate the funds needed to bring about change. With the continued support from existing and new corporate partners, we can create a society where everyone has a home.

Jim Dennison – Chief Executive, Simon Community NI
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This year, Simon Community's Christmas Supporters will help make Christmas a little brighter for someone with no home and change lives in 2019.