This page contains biographies for your regional representatives on Homeless Link's National Advisory Council.
We invite nominations to Homeless Link’s National Advisory Council (NAC), the forum for senior individuals in member agencies to inform our policy and practice work. There are currently vacancies for a representative to the NAC for the North East. If you would like to find out more, or are interested in nominating yourself, please contact Alice Evans, Head of Policy Analysis.
Mike Smith, Watford New Hope Trust
Mike is Chief Executive Officer of Watford New Hope Trust. The Trust is a Christian charity that works with about 900 vulnerable people every year through a variety of hostels (50 beds), a Day Centre and complementary support services. These include a street outreach team, development workshops, tenancy support services, mental health support and three social enterprise projects designed to restore self-esteem cultivate social skills.
Mike is a Chartered Accountant who has spent much of his career leading management service departments in the retail and leisure sectors. Since leaving commerce, Mike has spent 8 years at Westminster Abbey as Assistant Chief Executive in charge of finance, strategic planning and visitor management. He has also led a North London cancer care charity.
Mike has been a member of the NAC since 2008.
Contact Mike by email
Helen Howson, The Bridge
Helen works for The Bridge as the manager of the Single Access Point and the award-winning ‘talk 2 sort’ mediation service. The service focuses on preventing youth homelessness and helping to improve young people’s life chances.
Helen has worked in the voluntary sector for nearly 10 years and previously worked as a young person’s housing advisor and advocate.
Contact Helen by email
Catherine Cook, HLG
Catherine works for HLG - a voluntary sector organisation supporting homeless and vulnerable people. She is part of the Resource Team, which provides specialist infrastructure support to the housing and homelessness sector across Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County.
After studying Sociology at University but not knowing quite what to do next, Catherine had a series of quite varied jobs in retail and banking. She began volunteering in her mid-twenties, working with children living in care and as a young person’s mentor, which led to working for HLG as a tenancy support worker for care leavers.
Catherine has worked in the Resource Team for several years and her role is to support organisations working with homeless and vulnerable people to improve their practice and services they offer. Catherine is also a director of a Community Interest Company called Services for Empowerment & Advocacy (SEA), which provides advocacy for people receiving housing related support and service user involvement opportunities.
Contact Catherine by email
Ed Tytherleigh, Stoll
Contact Ed by email
Jon Kuhrt, West London Mission
Jon is the Executive Director of Social Work at the West London Mission, which is part of the Methodist Church. They currently run a day centre in Westminster, three hostels, supported housing and a community counselling service.
Prior to this Jon was Director of Community Mission at The Shaftesbury Society (2002-2010); a hostel manager for Centrepoint running emergency hostels for young rough sleepers (1997-2002) and a project worker for Novas in a large hostel in Hackney (1995-97) including a secondment to manage a Crisis Winter Watch shelter.
Contact Jon by email
Neil Baird, Tyneside Cyrenians
Contact Neil by email
Nigel Francis, Methodist Action
Contact Nigel by email
Jon Cox, Two Saints
Jon began working with homeless people and vulnerable groups in 1993 when he volunteered at a local activities based day centre for young homeless people in Oxford.
Over the next eight years Jon worked in a variety of client support posts in statutory and voluntary agencies in Oxfordshire. In 2003 he took over the management of a large hostel for Two Saints in West Berkshire before moving through the more senior roles of Operations Manager and Business Development Manager to his current position as Head of Business Development. His role has a broad remit including innovation and new initiatives, development, procurement, social enterprise, policy, good practice, public relations and operational and efficiency reviews. During this time he has also gained a professional qualification in social work and an exceptional pass on the Leading Place of Change Award.
Jon has been a NAC member since December 2008 and was elected as Chair in September 2010.
Contact Jon by email
Benn Kiley, Simon House
After gaining an Honours Degree in Philosophy, specialising in applied ethics and the nature of the religious experience, Benn Kiley pursued a career as a writer. In 2000, moved by the fact that vulnerable strangers always seemed to be sharing their difficulties with him, he decided to work in the field of homelessness. He worked with various organisations in differing roles, including becoming Head of Accommodation for a further education college, before working for Stonham in 2002 and eventually joining A2Dominion Group in 2004.
A2Dominion’s Care and Support department deliver support and sheltered services to 1,546 service users with varying needs and manage 2,318 properties throughout the South East and London. Benn holds a remit with the Care and Support senior management team whilst also being directly responsible for Simon House, a large hostel in Oxfordshire. He regards his most satisfying achievements as successfully piloting a service for previously excluded individuals with dual diagnosis/personality disorders and designing, alongside service users, the Pathway to Potential Support Tool.
Benn is also a qualified counsellor, a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, and runs his own small private practice.
Contact Benn by email
Sarah Ward, BCHA
Having had a career as a theatre stage manager, Sarah decided on a change of course in 1992 when she became an occupational therapy assistant in a day centre in London for adults with mental health issues. This led to her working as a project worker for Bondway Housing Association (now Thames Reach) in their housing projects in South London.
Sarah relocated to the South West in 2000 where she joined Stonham. Here she managed a range of services for homeless people across Dorset. In 2004 she took up the post of South West Region Practice Development Advisor for Stonham, working across services in the region to develop good practice tools with and for staff and service users and contributing to regional and national policy development.
Sarah has worked for BCHA since 2007, first as the team manager for their direct access hostel and day centre and then as their Homelessness Manager, responsible for all homelessness services as well as service development.
Contact Sarah by email
Phil Noall, Freedom Social Projects
Contact Phil by email
Gill Brown, Brighter Futures
Gill Brown has recently celebrated 21 years as the chief executive of Brighter Futures. She arrived in Stoke in 1988 and soon after decided that what was needed was the drive and managerial approach of the private sector applied to the flexibility and innovation of the voluntary sector “to see where it would take us”. She has since learnt that this is called being a social entrepreneur. Today Brighter Futures has a national reputation as a provider of top quality, innovative services, to some of the most hard to reach and disadvantaged people in North Staffordshire and has just been appointed as a rough sleeping champion by the CLG.
Gill believes that the keys to success are; being very clear about who your customer is, trying to understand why they are like they are, managing stakeholder expectations, knowing what you do well and always looking to do it better, an organisation that is outcome focused, knows where its going in which everyone knows what is expected of them.
Brighter Futures has built close working links with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, together they have reduced and maintained rough sleeping. The Council’s Supporting People Team has used the range of tools and support provided by Homeless Link to focus on effective interventions in hostels, move on planning and resettlement support.
More information can be found at the Brighter Futures website.
Contact Gill by email
Pat McArdle, Mayday Trust
Pat is The Chief Executive Officer of May Day Trust. The Trust provides support to vulnerable adults across Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. These include specialist schemes for people with mental health problems and learning difficulties. The main focus of their work is to provide independence through improved access to education, learning and employment, improved health outcomes and reducing reoffending.
Prior to this Pat has worked for 23 years in the voluntary sector in England and in Ireland. He has worked as Director of Services for the YWCA England and Wales, as Head of Network Services for the Foyer Federation and on the Board of CARA Housing Association.
Contact Pat by email
Tony Beech, St Anne’s Community Services
Tony started his career as a nursing assistant for mental health services in Oxfordshire in 1992. In 1994 he joined St Anne’s Community Services in Yorkshire and since that time has taken on a number of roles including support worker in alcohol services, a residential care officer and supported housing worker/deputy manager in Leeds. After taking on the post of managing LD Residential and Supported Living services in Kirklees, Tony took on his current role as Area Manager which covers mental health, supported living and homelessness services throughout South Yorkshire and Bradford.
Contact Tony by email
Ben Keegan, Roundabout
Ben is the Project Director of Roundabout a Sheffield based charity supporting and housing young people aged 16-25. Roundabout provides a Direct Access hostel, move on accommodation, floating support service and housing for 16 and 17 year old care leavers and offenders.
Ben I started work in this field as a volunteer for the Citizens Advice Bureau in Manchester in 1994 and in 1995 took up his first paid role for Manchester City Council in their Homeless Section as a Homeless Assessment Officer and Hostel worker. He went on to work for New Islington and Hackney Housing Association (now Family Mosaic) supporting former rough sleepers into their own tenancies. Whilst there he became Team Leader in one of the first Tenancy Sustainment Teams for former rough sleepers.
In 2001 Ben moved to South Yorkshire to manage a large Direct Access men’s hostel run by St Anne’s Community Support Services. He then became Deputy Director of local South Yorkshire Charity Nomad Homeless Advice and Support.
Contact Ben by Email
Una Barry, Depaul Trust
Una Barry MBE, is Deputy Chief Executive of Depaul Trust since 1997 and has been instrumental in the development of Depaul UK into the largest national homeless charity for young people. Una was awarded an MBE in the New Years honours list in 2004 for her work with disadvantaged and homeless young people.
Una qualified as a social worker and has a Diploma in Management. Whilst at Centrepoint Una set up the first Refuge for runaway children under the 1989 Children Act.
Contact Una by email
Athol Halle, Groundswell
Athol has been working with Groundswell since 2003, taking on the role of Chief Executive in 2006. Groundswell exists to enable homeless and vulnerable people to take more control of their lives, have a greater influence on the services they use and to play a full role in their communities. This is achieved through delivering participatory research, supporting client involvement initiatives and creating peer advocacy projects.
Athol worked as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities and physical disabilities before moving into more strategic roles with Amnesty International, National Homeless Alliance and Cardboard Citizens. He is a graduate of the School for Social Entrepreneurs and a Trustee of the Glimmer of Hope UK Foundation.
Contact Athol by email
Gary Staniforth, The Hidden Homeless
In 2008 Gary was homeless and living in the salvation army, while there he stood on the city hall steps in protest and stood up for the rights of single homeless people and petitioned the council to speak in council chambers about legislation and discrimination.
He came second in the Michael whipman award in 2011 for the magazine and now social enterprise “Hidden Voices” (The Hidden Homeless Ltd) of which I am the founder and CEO. The Hidden Voices is his way of gaining and giving a voice to service users to help them campaign and for others to see that everyone has a story to tell & there is always a way out of the negative place we end up if we get the right support.
Contact Gary by email