Homeless crisis to be discussed by eight European front line organisations at seminar organised by Sophia, Midlands Simon Community and SMES Europa

  •  Minister Eoghan Murphy T.D, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, opens seminar
  • Sophia’s ‘Housing First’ model believes long term solution to homelessness is a home for life – not just a bed for a night

Sophia, the organisation that supports families, couples and individuals as they emerge from the traumatic experience of homelessness, and their collaborative partner, Midlands Simon Community, will today welcome eight front line organisations from seven European countries to Ireland to participate in a series of project visits, workshops and seminars around the issue of homelessness.

Discussing the theme ‘Responding to the current homeless crisis: Challenges and Solutions’, the delegation is meeting in Dublin and Athlone this week to exchange international models of best practice and share ideas on how to effectively support people emerging from homelessness.

The representatives are from the SMES Europa network, a European wide network of organisations working with people who are homeless and socially excluded as well as those who present with mental health support needs. Sophia and the Midlands Simon Community are both members of the organisation.

Sophia, which was founded 20 years ago by Jean Quinn DW and Eamonn Martin, provides an alternative approach to ending homelessness through it’s ‘Housing First’ model. The organisation was established out of recognition that hostels and shelters wouldn’t end the homelessness crisis, and what was needed was a caring, compassionate response that supported people to have a home of their own as quickly as possible.

Sophia’s ‘Housing First’ model focuses on not only providing a home, but recognising the support needs of people who are recovering from homelessness. The organisation owns and manages a range of homes in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Sligo and now works with over 500 families, couples and individuals at any one time.

The delegation will this week visit a number of projects across Dublin and the Midlands including Sophia Sean McDermott Street, where Sophia has provided support to 36 people who were long term homeless and with complex support needs. Other agencies may have been reluctant to offer homes to these people due to high probability they would relapse into homelessness again. However, nearly 18 months after opening, 33 out of the original 36 people in the Sophia Sean McDermott Street project are still living in their own homes. This is above the national average and on a par with the best outcomes anywhere in the world.

Attending the seminar this week are:

  • Sophia / Midlands Simon Community
  • Caritas Warsaw
  • UDENFOR Copenhagen
  • Fondazione Istituto Andrea Devoto Florence
  • Psychiatric Hospital in Lisbon
  • SMES-Belgium
  • SMES Italy
  • Sant Joan de Deu Psychiatric Hospital in Barcelona

Travelling with the delegation are renowned practitioners such as Dr Preben Brandt, a highly respected service provider with UDENFOR Copenhagen in Denmark, and the respected community psychiatrist Dr Antonio Bento from the Central Psychiatric Hospital in Lisbon.

The seminar was formally opened on Wednesday morning – by Eoghan Murphy T.D, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and included presentations from:

  • Jean Quinn D.W, Founder of Sophia and Executive Director of Unanimity International
  • Eileen Gleeson, Director of the Dublin Regional Housing Executive
  • Dr Bernie O’Donoghue Hynes, Head of Research at the Dublin Regional Housing Executive
  • Paul Gilligan, CEO of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services

On Friday 27 October, the event will move to Athlone where Midlands Simon Community will host visits to Slí Nua and EAS Athlone and a range of contributors, including Ciarán Cannon T.D., Minister for the Diaspora and International Development, will speak about regional homelessness.

Minister Eoghan Murphy T.D, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, says:

“As a society we have to respond to the needs of people that are homeless. In the Budget earlier this month, the Government allocated €116 million for homelessness which is an increase of €18m. We must also to look at innovative models to improve homeless services, and I commend the collaborative approach of Sophia and the Midlands Simon Community for hosting the SMES Europa seminar for the first time in Ireland.”  

Jean Quinn D.W, Founder of Sophia, says: “It is an honour for Sophia in conjunction with the Midlands Simon Community to host likeminded organisations from across Europe. Little did we think when we established Sophia 20 years ago this year that we would have organisations coming to Sophia to learn from how we have supported people to recover from homelessness.  

In particular, we are proud of Sophia Sean McDermott Street, where we have provided support to 36 people who were long term homeless and with complex support needs. The fact that 33 out of the original 36 people are still living in their own homes outlines that the Sophia model is effective in supporting the most marginalised people in society and it reinforces the need for the state to not only to provide housing but to provide the funding to ensure people receive the support they require.” 

Tony O’Riordan, CEO of Sophia Housing, says: “Sophia has always sought to support people with not only a need for housing but those who also have multiple needs and these needs have been accentuated by the experience of being homelessness. Sophia has, over the last 20 years, developed a model that creates the therapeutic environment that successfully supports permanent recovery from homelessness and hundreds of people have left the instability of homelessness and moved to the security of their own home because of being supported by Sophia. We are delighted to share this model with other service providers in Ireland and across Europe”

For more information about Sophia, please visit www.sophia.ie
Find us on Facebook or Twitter @sophia_housing 
For more information about the Midlands Simon Community, please visit www.midlandssimon.com/
Find us on Facebook or Twitter @midlandssimon  
For more information about SMES Europa, please visit
www.smes-europa.org