Northern Ireland

Simon Community app to help homeless find shelter and food

Simon app
Image caption The Simon app can be used to help homeless people access shelter

A new smartphone app to help homeless people find hostels and food banks is being launched by Northern Ireland homeless charity, Simon.

The app also allows members of the public to send the charity the location of someone they think is at risk.

The Support My Own Neighbourhood app is also aimed at people who unexpectedly become homeless.

Four million UK families with children are one pay cheque away from losing their home, according to Shelter.

A spokesperson for Simon said they accommodate 3000 people in Northern Ireland each year in temporary accommodation.

"These people are not on the street, but they are still homeless," they said.

Many of them do have smartphones and could use the app.

The majority are under 26 years old, and 75% come from a care home background.

Relationship breakdowns, either with family or partners, is the main cause of homelessness according to people who seek help from Simon.

The app was created in collaboration with other homeless organisations.

Its development has been supported by the Housing Executive's Supporting People programme that funds accommodation services for vulnerable people.

Image copyright Simon Community
Image caption The app has five tabs showing the location of services including Simon Community accommodation and hostels

It is available for free on iOS and Android phones, and uses the phone's GPS to show people where the nearest hostels, food banks and information centres are.

The app also uses the GPS to alert Simon staff of the location of homeless people that users think are at risk. The staff can then approach them and offer support.

The spokesperson said: "We hope everyone that has a smartphone would want to download it."

An advance feature, for charity workers who come into contact with people at risk of homelessness, allows them refer those people directly to Simon.

Felix who is a 20 year-old rough sleeper thinks the app is a good idea even though he doesn't have a smartphone.

He said: "I don't think people sitting out are taken seriously.

"We are seen as dirt and I want to change the way people look at us.

He said: "Not everybody sitting out wants money from people. Some just want someone to stop and talk to them."

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