A Visit to the Simon Community’s Bridge Street Hostel in Newry

by | Aug 16, 2023 | News

Bridge Street Newry Hostel


On August 7th myself and Mark Ballie visited the Simon Community’s Bridge Street hostel in Newry. We found the building with ease and were welcomed by Marianne and Margaret in the foyer. We were taken through to the kitchen and then the bright and airy shared living space at the front of the building.  The hostel provides thirteen single units in the main building and five self-contained units in an adjoining building.

The residents in Bridge Street Newry are predominantly male. The duration of stay can vary, but in recent years some residents have found themselves living at the site for a number of years due to a lack of affordable housing in the area. This is one of the main challenges facing temporary accommodation sites right across Northern Ireland and sadly there is little sign of this situation changing anytime soon. We met a few residents during our visit and Marianne kindly took us to see one of the rooms in the main building and one of the larger self-contained units next door.


Referral to this service can be made via the Simon Central Access point. Bed availability is released each morning. When an individual comes to Bridge Street, the staff carry out a risk assessment on physical and mental health and a needs assessment. Many residents will experience complex needs. Marianne stressed to us the positive relationship and high regard the team at Bridge Street have for the Housing Executive team in Newry. In increasingly challenging times for Housing Executive staff in Newry and elsewhere, it is evident that they continue to try and seek positive solutions for clients.


We spoke about the issues facing the staff team, the lack of suitable housing stock and the changing substance dependency trends. We listened to how the hostel managed to stay open during COVID. This was only made possible by the long-term commitment of the staff, who worked tirelessly to keep the service up and running in highly challenging circumstances.

Marianne is the Service Manager across four Simon Community hostels. Bangor, Downpatrick, Newry and Armagh and has worked at the Newry site for 20 years.  Margaret works as a Senior Practitioner and has been a part of the staff team for 11 years. Both Marianne and Margaret have had the opportunity to develop their skills and rise through the ranks at the Simon Community.

Bridge Street is blessed to have several highly experienced staff from a diverse range of backgrounds.  All members of staff employed by the Simon Community undergo core training provided by Simon Community Central when they begin employment. Some members of staff start off covering night shifts. If someone is interested in working and they do not have the required 6 months experience, they can apply to volunteer and gain that experience. Even while we were visiting, we watched the difference experience can make as Marianne deftly managed what could have been a challenging encounter with a resident in to a positive one.

The staff team, work with other local services such as Davina’s Ark and PIPS and have access to First Aid and Naloxone training.

In March 23, the Simon Community held a staff recognition celebration. Staff were thanked for their commitment to the organisation. Marianne received a well-deserved thank you for her 20 years of service. This initiative from the Simon Community clearly is appreciated and illustrates the commitment the organisation has towards its staff.


Bridge Street in Newry benefits from support from a Central Team of well-being practitioners. Robyn has been providing invaluable harm reduction/general health advice to the residents for several years. She also provides emotional well-being support for residents and staff.

The Inclusion Health Nurse, funded by the Public Health Agency, attends the hostel every Wednesday seeking to address a wide range of medical issues residents can face.. Most importantly she gives residents an avenue through which they can access the healthcare system. Marianne and Margaret were very positive about the contribution of the Inclusion Health Nurse which has been a relatively recent innovation. There are now Inclusion Health Nurses across the five Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland and we are regularly hearing high praise of the difference they are making.


The staff have built strong positive relations with residents and community groups. Church groups and youth groups raise money at Christmas through fundraisers and sleep outs. Care packages are put together and given to residents. Retail stores make donations and food is sent to the hostel after any big events in the town.

As Marianne said ‘The people of Newry are very welcoming and generous towards us.’

We are grateful to the Simon Community and to the team at Bridge Street Hostel for facilitating our visit. Make sure you stay in touch with the Simon Community on their website and by following them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIN.

Nikki McConville is the Lived Experience Co-ordinator for Homeless Connect


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