Simon deserve our full support
Ask most people why people are homeless and they are likely to say it's because of drug and alcohol addiction, but in fact research conducted in many countries found that domestic and family violence and mental health issues are the leading causes of homelessness.
We're fortunate in Dundalk that we are not confronted on a nightly basis by having our conscience invaded by the sight of homeless people sleeping in the doorways of shops.
Homelessness in Dundalk is, by and large, hidden from public view.
One of the primary reasons why the homelessness situation is not as prominently displayed as in other towns and cities is due entirely to the work of the Simon Community in Dundalk.
For over 45 years Simon has been at the cutting edge of a growing problem in town by having to deal with the most vulnerable in our society.
When homeless persons are first presented to Simon they are provided with emergency accommodation in their 30-bed hostel off Barrack Street where help is sought through external agencies to cater for the wide range of social problems that brought about the homelessness.
The rehabilitation process continues when the homeless are moved from the hostel to small housing units located in the town and which are also owned and operated by Simon.
Throughout the rehabilitation process the local authority is involved with the aim of finding suitable permanent accommodation so that those involved can get their lives back on track.
In addition to this work in finding accommodation, Simon also provides a valuable service for those at the risk of homelessness and others facing social isolation in their well run drop in centre in Seatown Place where callers can relax, have a cup of tea, hot meal, have a shower or wash their clothes.
An extensive garden at the rear is a welcome asset for those anxious to do some gardening, or just to spend some time on their own.
Naturally all of these facilities costs money to run, and while Simon do receive government support through Pobal, a grant making agency funded by the Department of Environment & Local Government, it is not near sufficient.
The shortfall is made up of volunteers who live and work in communities for a minimum period of nine months and by fund raising.
The volunteers work in a Simon project as a voluntary member of the staff team but the most important aspect of this work is the development of positive working relationships with the people who need the services of Simon.
The fund raising is essential in keeping the hostel opened, providing accommodation and in keeping a hot meal on the table in the drop in centre.
An important element of that fund raising is the church gate collection in Dundalk on Saturday and Sunday next. It is one of two week-ends allocated to Simon every year, and for that reason is fully deserving of support.
The sight of people sleeping rough in doorways in the height of winter tugs at all our hearts, and while the problem of homelessness is not as visible in our town, it exists, and would be a lot more visible if the Simon Community did not do such excellent work.