5 Minute Focus On: Jim Dennison, Chief Executive – Simon Community NI
Tell us about the Simon Community NI
Simon Community NI is Northern Ireland’s largest and longest serving homeless charity. We have a vision of a society where everyone has a home, and our mission is to end homelessness for people who need our help.
With a workforce of over 380 passionate individuals, we support up to 636 marginalised people each day across 25 accommodation projects and 13 community support services. Each service is specifically designed to respond to chronic and/or temporary homelessness and currently includes homelessness prevention and outreach work, mental health, and wellbeing, help with addictions and substance dependency as well as bespoke services for young people who are homeless.
What is your role in the company?
I joined Simon Community in 2014 as its Chief Executive. I am responsible for setting our overall strategic direction, ensuring the good governance of the organisation as well as being responsible for the delivery of the operations of the charity and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of colleagues and clients.
Tell us something about the Simon Community NI that we might not know?
We’re currently celebrating our 50th Anniversary. From a handful of volunteers delivering soup to rough sleepers on the streets of Belfast, we have come a long way since we were established in 1971.
As part of our Anniversary, we announced ‘Creating Homes’, which is our ambitious goal to create 50 new homes over two years for clients experiencing homelessness.
What’s next for the Simon Community NI?
We already know that the housing system continues to struggle to provide homes for people. With demand for our charity’s accommodation services having increased by 20% during the pandemic and findings from a piece of research that we are currently working on that explores the issue and complexities of Hidden Homelessness in NI, now more than ever our charity needs to explore new ways to prevent or end homelessness for clients.
That is why further development and roll out of the Creating Homes initiative is a key strategic priority for the charity moving forward. Launched in October 2021, we have already secured five homes for clients, brought on board a new Assets Manager to identify and purchase potential new properties, and secured Corporate and Community support to help us deliver on two new homes in the coming months.
For more information on how businesses can get involved in this truly life-changing initiative, visit the Simon Community.
What’s your favourite thing about working in Belfast? (Or what do you miss about working in the city centre if WFH)
I always love the hustle and bustle of the city centre and even with reduced numbers due to the pandemic, the city always fells vibrant. A central location in the city centre makes it not only easy to meet key partners but also to grab a great coffee!
What do you like about being a Glandore Member?
We are in a relatively new relationship with Glandore and one that has been very positive. So far, the networking opportunities have been fantastic, and we have enjoyed meeting people from other organisations.
Friday nights in or Friday nights out?
I am going to fudge this answer. Mostly I have to say Friday nights in. It’s a great time to relax after a busy week, have a takeaway and perhaps a couple of glasses of something cold and fizzy. That said, an occasional Friday night out also has its benefits!
Simon Community NI is Northern Ireland’s leading homeless charity. We work without judgement to support people who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness.
For more information on services, updates or how to get involved, visit: the Simon Community.