“We all need a family of some kind or other. They can keep us strong and help us become even better people.

Family doesn’t see colour, race, culture, nationality; it sees the heart of the person. You just want to be there for them. You want to support them. You want to help them. It’s about having someone to care for you unconditionally despite any shortcomings. It’s what family is.

And that’s built in to the culture of Simon – being there for people. Offering guidance and showing them the best path; helping people to be the person they want to be. Family.

I can’t imagine, I just can’t put myself in someone’s shoes that is homeless and not have a place to go at night and put your head on a pillow. But I like to think I can empathise with their situation and be there. It’s what Simon is about: we’re there for people; no judgement, just helping where we can.

South East Simon has played a big part in my life. When I was working at Talk Talk in Waterford, the staff voted for Simon as our charity of the year. We fundraised and volunteered – spending time going into people’s homes, helping them to paint and renovate.

It was a real sense of family, working together to make things better. The morale among staff was so high after seeing, experiencing and putting themselves in other people’s shoes, hearing their stories and life experiences. It opened their minds and their hearts. I like to think that experience has stayed with them.

I was then invited to volunteer on South East Simon’s Board, which was an eye opener. I’m much more aware and have a better understanding of different needs in society. I saw the work that goes on behind the scenes; people doing everything they can to support people who were homeless and responding to their needs.

A member of my extended family was on the streets in Cork and supported by Simon there. We were devastated but it was a relief to know that help was at hand, knowing that Simon was there looking out for them, keeping them safe.

I think there's always going to be a need for an organisation such as South East Simon. It’s a massive challenge right now with so many people unable to afford their housing. But there’s always going to be a need to support people that, for one reason or another, are pushed into homelessness. Drugs and alcohol are a big issue that society must deal with. Simon sees it all and will always respond.

I’d love to see more services being offered – reaching into Dungarvan, Wexford and other areas. That will need resources, of course, but with more people than ever being pushed into homelessness, the services that Simon offers are badly needed. We need to be there for people, offer a safe haven, be their family for however long it takes. That’s Simon.”

- Mary.