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Simon helps double income familes

MID West Simon, who operate food banks in Ennis and Kilrush, said double income families are increasingly
availing of their services.

In addition, 550 people in the county are having some or all of their food supplied by the food banks. Mid
West Simon general manager, Jackie Bonfield, told The Clare Champion that families with students about to
attend third level are amongst those who are now using food banks and she is encouraging people in similar
circumstances to also do so.

“In recent months, we have had a number of double and middle income families, with both parents working,
getting in touch with us. This is particularly relevant at the moment because families who have teenagers
about to start at third level are feeling the financial strain. People who are finding it difficult to
manage rent, mortgage repayments and other bills are often double income families,” Jackie Bonfield

“We have recently secured food with long shelf-life and we welcome people to contact us. Our main aim is
about prevention of people losing their home or running into arrears, where possible. One method of helping
to alleviate that is to provide food,” she added.

Mid West Simon Community has been running a pilot programme in partnership with the Irish Mortgage Holders
Organisation (IMHO) since 2015.

While Mid West Simon has been traditionally recognised as dealing with those who are already homeless, the
financial crisis has seen the profile of their clients broaden to include those who need help in retaining
their homes.

“It wasn’t a huge surprise when the profile of our clients changed from 2014 onward, considering the
economic situation. More and more people were coming to us looking for help and support around how they
could possibly manage to hold onto their homes, both those in rental and in mortgaged accommodation.”

“Those who were renting were struggling to pay increased rents and one of the solutions we put in place was
our food banks in Ennis and Kilrush, whereby we were able to provide people with some food each week, in
the hope that the money they spared in their weekly shopping would help them keep up with their rent. Of
course we provided other supports too, including advice and information and advocacy where required.”

Currently, Mid West Simon runs bi-weekly food banks in Ennis, Kilrush and Limerick, with over 1,600 people
availing of the service.

“Those in mortgage arrears present us with more of a challenge because their needs are so much more complex
in having to deal with lenders and numerous financial institutions, all with different requirements. Early
in 2015 we entered into an agreed working model with the IMHO and began a pilot programme with them.”
Mid West Simon has noticed that there has been an increase in the number of people coming to them who are
in trouble with their mortgages.

“For some, they have come to the end of their moratorium or interest-only period and are now back where
they started. For others, they have been struggling, barely surviving, for years now and have finally
decided that they need help. No matter what the reason, Mid West Simon, with the IMHO, will do everything
they can to.

“In the 18 months that the Simon-IMHO programme has been running, we have worked with a number of families
and individuals, some of whom have been in significant arrears with their mortgages. In the first instance,
we met them to find out exactly what their situation was. From there, we completed their standard financial
statement and compiled the various documents and accounts the IMHO needed in order to represent them with
their lender. With the support of the IMHO, our clients have received the very best financial advice and
negotiation services.

“The Mid West Simon Community is coming forward now, at the end of this successful pilot period, to
encourage anyone out there who might have concerns about their own situation,” Ms Bonfield concluded.

Peter O’Connell

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