Snakes and tarantulas on a quick 
‘drop-in’ to Clonmel’s Simon community

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

Chocolate, the Red Tail Boa Constrictor snake, a rare Chilean Rose tarantula called Rosie and Juan the Red Footed Brazilian tortoise were among the exotic creatures that paid a visit to the South East Simon Community offices in Clonmel last week.

The well known charity that helps homeless people and those at risk of losing their home brought The Reptile Village Conservation Zoo to their Clonmel centre as a treat for local families it has been helping.

The visit of the mobile zoo to the Simon Community at No. 2 Brighton Place is one of a series of social events and outings Simon has organised in recent months for the children of under pressure families accessing the charity’s services.

“We got some funding to work with families and their children to give them experiences they normally wouldn’t get,” explained manager Sinead Cronin-Daly, Services Manager of the Simon Community in Clonmel.

“Before Christmas we organised visits to Santa and outings to the cinema. We found that when families are under so much pressure that children are often left out and relationships with their children suffer.”

Sinead and her two colleagues Elaine Tobin and Catherine White, discovered that trips to the zoo were among the experiences some of their clients never enjoyed and decided to bring the zoo to them.

Nick Tavoliere of the Reptile Village Conservation Zoo based near Gowran, Co. Kilkenny spent over two hours at the Simon Centre last Thursday showing awestruck kids and their parents the rare and beautiful creatures he had brought on tour.

One of the rarest creature’s on display was a pink Axolotl amphibean from Mexico, who can regenerate its limbs if they become injured and is in big demand with stem cell medical research teams.

Children and adults who came to see the zoo were invited to touch and handle the menagerie of reptiles under the supervision of Nick, who enthusiastically shared his encyclopedic knowledge about each of the rare species he showed visitors.

Sinead explained that the services Simon provides were about supporting families and individuals by putting the structures in place so they don’t end up struggling and without a roof over their head.

At the moment, the Clonmel branch of the Simon Community is dealing with 25 cases of people or families who are homeless or under threat of becoming homeless.

Sinead Cronin-Daly appealed to anyone finding themselves in this situation to contact their offices in Brighton Place. The charity works alongside the local authorities, HSE and other charities and agencies ranging from Barnardos to Cuan Saor, Clonmel’s Women’s Refuge.

While the charity hasn’t a hostel in Clonmel, it owns several houses in the town, which are all occupied by client and their homes for life.

She said the centre provides a tenancy support service to support people to live in their homes.

The charity provides a drop-in advocacy and information service where people can get assistance on everything from accessing social welfare entitlements to filling out forms.

The Simon Community in Clonmel also runs life skills and budgeting programmes that aim to address the needs of people facing homeless and the reasons why they are in danger of losing their homes.

It also has an after care service helping young people who have been in the care of the HSE to adjust and integrate into living in the community. These are among the charity’s clients that benefit from the life skills courses.

She said people have an image that Simon is about helping the guy who is on the street drinking from a bottle but their clients are quite diverse.

Clonmel luckily has very few homeless people living on the streets and the number of such homeless people had actually fallen in the town in the last few years.

Due to the recession and property crash, the charity has dealt with some home repossession cases.

“We always tell people don’t hide away until it’s too late. That is why they come to us. They haven’t told their loved ones. We try to promote being open and honest when you have difficulties. There is support out there and you should come and talk to people before it’s too late.”

Anyone wishing to contact the Simon Community in Clonmel should contact (052) 6172742.