Cork Simon faces one of its toughest winters yet

Offering whatever you can — including small gifts in your Will — can help those at risk of homelessness as the cost of living crisis rages on
Cork Simon faces one of its toughest winters yet

There were 18% more men, women and children depending on emergency accommodation this summer than in 2021.

While the recently-announced Budget has assuaged fears somewhat, there’s still no doubt that households nationwide are facing into a very difficult winter this year.

As temperatures plummet whilst heating bills and energy prices soar, the cost of living crisis seems a bleak situation for many. Although, in many ways, those worrying about how they will heat their homes are the lucky ones — the separate, ongoing housing crisis means countless people are desperately looking for a roof to put over their heads and a home they can heat in the first place.

With all these challenges combined, there’s arguably no group that’s bracing for a more difficult few months ahead than Cork Simon Community and the people who depend on its services.

For over half a century, the charity has tirelessly supported men and women across Cork and Kerry who are at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness. From soup runs, to an emergency shelter, to addiction and personal development services, Cork Simon provides everything that people turning to them for help need in order to get back on their feet — but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the demand.

Already, the effects of the cost of living crisis are putting huge pressure on the charity’s strained resources. “We're currently looking at a winter that we expect will be very tough for us, where we’ll be relying on support from the people of Cork significantly,” says Leona Walsh, Legacies Manager and Head of Donor Engagement at Cork Simon.

“There will be an inevitable strain on our services, as there is every winter, but there’s a lot of apprehension as to how the cost of living crisis will add to that this year. A lot of people who already rely on us may find themselves even more stretched, for example some people who come to our soup run are living in private rented accommodation but can’t afford food, so I can only imagine how their situation will possibly get worse over the coming months, with both food and rent rising in cost. 

Leona Walsh, Legacies Manager and Head of Donor Engagement at Cork Simon, says the people of Cork always dig deep to help those in need.
Leona Walsh, Legacies Manager and Head of Donor Engagement at Cork Simon, says the people of Cork always dig deep to help those in need.

"We've been through crises like this before, however, and our donors and the people of Cork always rally around to support us. We’re really hopeful that will continue, because sadly I think this winter will be very bad. Already, I’m noticing more people coming to our soup run and more people sleeping rough around Cork, and the annual trend is that this usually worsens further into winter.” 

This staggering increase in demand that Leona is noticing has impacted Cork Simon’s services across the board — official figures recorded this summer demonstrated huge spikes in the number of people relying on the charity.

As of August 2022, there were:

  • 486 adults depending on emergency accommodation in Cork — up 16% in twelve months.
  • 573 adults depending on emergency accommodation in the Southwest (Cork & Kerry) — up 14% since August 2021.
  • 719 men, women and children depending on emergency accommodation in the Southwest (Cork & Kerry) — up 18% since last year.

While the figures make for stark reading, Leona and the rest of the team at Cork Simon are optimistic that the permeating spirit of generosity as we head into the Christmas season will encourage people to dig deep to help the growing number of people in need.

Cork Simon has loyal supporters of all ages. Here, students from Gaelscoil Teaghlaigh Naofa in Ballyphehane are pictured presenting a cheque to the charity after their students participated in a fundraiser.
Cork Simon has loyal supporters of all ages. Here, students from Gaelscoil Teaghlaigh Naofa in Ballyphehane are pictured presenting a cheque to the charity after their students participated in a fundraiser.

“We are blessed to have so many loyal and committed supporters who really care about us and the work we do. Cork Simon turned 50 last year, while our iconic soup run has been going strong across the city for 51 years, so we’re really part of the fabric of Cork at this stage! In that time, so much of our progress has been made possible thanks to the support of our local community — from the establishment of our shelter, to keeping our outreach team out on the streets of Cork as an active presence that can provide support, or helping our service users find long term housing. All of those key services exist because of our supporters, but the need for their help is still there.” 

A gift to the city

To address this need, the charity have launched a new campaign that encourages people to leave a gift to Cork Simon in their Will. “There are many advantages to leaving a gift in your Will,” Leona explains. “It costs nothing to set up, which is a huge help at the moment when everybody is that little bit more stretched financially. 

"While leaving a gift in your Will has no cost for you now, it’s something that will have a hugely positive impact on Cork Simon in years to come. Cork Simon is over 50 years old, but we want to continue our work and keep supporting the people of Cork long into the future, until we’re hundreds of years old! Gifts in Wills will help us in that work going forward more than you can imagine, and it's a very easy thing to do. It just takes one trip to a solicitor. I know a lot of people may feel they’re not a wealthy person and they don’t have much to give, but we truly appreciate any amount, large or small. It all makes a vital difference to the services that we're operating.” 

While the main aim of this campaign is to raise much-needed funds for Cork Simon’s services, the concept is one that can also help the charity’s patrons and supporters. It may be the perfect solution for the multitude of us who are still feeling lost in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, a period that made us realise just how short life is, how quickly it can all change, and that forced us to question our own mortality and consider what we’d want life without us to look like.

The spirit of generosity over the Christmas period often encourages people to show Cork Simon their support. A shining example of this is the annual 'Christmas Day’s Dinner for the Poor', for which all proceeds are donated to Cork Simon. Presentation Sister Lucy Lynch is pictured here keeping the tradition going strong.
The spirit of generosity over the Christmas period often encourages people to show Cork Simon their support. A shining example of this is the annual 'Christmas Day’s Dinner for the Poor', for which all proceeds are donated to Cork Simon. Presentation Sister Lucy Lynch is pictured here keeping the tradition going strong.

“There’s definitely been an increase in people writing their Wills lately, and I’ve even seen that anecdotally. Many of our donors have gotten in touch to let us know that they've planned their Will and that they've included Cork Simon in it, which is fantastic,” Leona beams. “I suppose people are thinking about the legacy they want to leave behind and many of them want to have a lasting impact on our cause because it’s an important one to so many people in Cork city. In that way, leaving Cork Simon a gift in your Will is almost like giving a gift to the city. When you pass on, it will enable our work right across Cork to continue, so we can support as many people as possible out of homelessness.” 

While the support for their Wills campaign so far has already bolstered spirits at Cork Simon, Leona predicts the cost of living crisis itself may also have the faintest of silver linings. She believes it’s breaking down much of the stigma surrounding homelessness, as the financial struggles that many of us are now tackling have opened our eyes to how we’re not so different from the men and women sleeping rough in Cork each night. After all, their fate may unfortunately be only a few pay checks away from reality for many of us.

Cork Simon's iconic soup run has been in operation for 51 years, helping countless people in that time.
Cork Simon's iconic soup run has been in operation for 51 years, helping countless people in that time.

“Homelessness can happen to anybody and we see people from all walks of life who need our services,” she shares. “For every person who's homeless there's a different reason why they've reached that point and a different range of supports that they need to help them move forward. Our line of work means we often meet people at their lowest ebb, which is why our support and the support of our donors is so important to lift them back up when they've got no one else to turn to.” 

To ensure that the Cork Simon Community can continue providing vital support to those who need it most, find out more about leaving them a gift in your Will at www.corksimon.ie.

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