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Call to graduates to embrace homeless challenge at city event

Call to graduates to embrace homeless challenge at city event

A group of future housing leaders from across the UK will meet up in Bradford this week (8thDecember)  to look at how they can help turn ‘rough lives’ around at a unique homelessness event.

Hosted  by local housing group Incommunities, 23 recruits on the latest GEM – Graduate Employment Mentoring – programme will on the day get a compelling insight into the growing rough sleeping crisis facing the UK and be challenged to come up with their own solutions.

The Homeless GEMshack event takes place at the University of Bradford’s Heaton Mount. It is being run by the group’s Centre for Partnership and will bring together a former homeless person who has turned his life around, national housing leaders, homelessness officers and representatives from local and major homeless charities.

The event will be chaired by Incommunities’ Group Chief Executive and Chair of the GEM Programme,  Geraldine Howley.

Speakers will include Nigel Tooby, artist in residence at the Leeds-based charity, Simon on the Streets. Nigel will introduce ‘Eye Spy’, a hard-hitting exhibition of photographic images of life on the streets through the eyes of the homeless themselves. Nigel’s exhibition has received critical acclaim in London and Bath.

He will be joined by David Tovey who will share his personal account of his life, sliding from being a successful army chef who cooked for the Queen to ending up on the streets not knowing where he could find food. David transformed his life creating the Man On Bench fashion label to help raise awareness of homelessness. He is also an award winning artist and photographer and has exhibited at the Tate Modern.

Key presentations will also be given by Terrie Alafat, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Paul Gartland, Chief Executive of Bradford-based Horton Housing, Andrew Burnip, Director at Crisis and Grace Darbyshire, Communications Director at South Yorkshire Housing Association who leads the Cathy at 50 campaign.

The Cathy at 50 campaign, launched by Inside Housing, is aimed at raising awareness of homelessness and promoting innovative practices to tackle the problem. The campaign will form part of the event. The campaign marks the 50th anniversary of Ken Loach’s iconic film ‘Cathy Come Home’ which exposed the problems of housing and homelessness when it was released 1966.

The GEMshack will also feature a Question Time session with the key speakers, a speed dating exercise where the GEM graduates will explore how they can help address homelessness through volunteering, fundraising or through their careers.

On the day, Geraldine Howley will present a ‘big cheque’ donation of £1000, on behalf of Incommunities, to the Crisis at Christmas campaign in support of the charities work supporting rough sleepers.

Incommunities Group Chief Executive, Geraldine Howley, said: “Homelessness is a growing problem that devastates lives with the number of people on the streets doubling since 2010.

“Housing providers, local authorities and charities face increasing challenges in responding to its impact. This event is about raising awareness of homelessness and engaging with young leaders at the start of their housing journey.

“Tackling homelessness is fundamental to working in social housing and it’s vital they get it!”

Trevor Smith, Director of the Centre for Partnership, said: “The GEM programme is about delivering talented graduates ready to meet the many challenges facing the housing sector.

“Homelessness reflects the single biggest challenge facing housing. It is fundamental to the development of the sector and is why we work in social housing. Today’s event is about ensuring housings future leaders understand and embrace homelessness and become part of the solutions.”

Since its launch in 2009, the GEM programme has gone from strength to strength. Over 95% of GEMs completing the programme secure jobs. Nearly one-third of GEMs now working in housing are from BME backgrounds and two-thirds are female.

The students taking part in the event are part of cohort 9 of the GEM programme and come from housing associations and related organisations across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For the first time two of the latest GEM recruits are from Canada and are studying the Chartered Institute of Housing accredited programme via distance learning.



Issued by Tony Lofthouse, Incommunities Media & Communications Officer on 01274 254253.


Media interview opportunities


Between 12.30pm and 1.15pm (8th Dec) there will be the opportunity to interview Nigel Tooby, artist-in-residence at the Leeds-based charity, Simon on the Streets and former rough sleeper turned entrepreneur David Tovey. All the day’s speakers and GEM graduates will also be available.


Speakers and GEM graduates and will be also available for phone interviews before the event (event starts 9.45am) and after (4pm).

To arrange interviews/photos please contact Tony Lofthouse, Incommunities Media & Communications Officer on 01274 254253.

Photo opportunity – 12.30pm at Heaton Mount (Bradford University), BD9 4JU Nigel Tooby, David Tovey, housing leaders and some of the GEM students can be pictured viewing ‘Eye Spy’ exhibition of images of life on the streets through the eyes of the homeless themselves.


Incommunities Group has over 22,600 homes in West and South Yorkshire. Incommunities is the biggest social landlord in the Bradford District and the Huddersfield-based Sadeh Lok is a traditional BME Housing Association formed in 1988.


For more information on the GEM programme and how to apply online click or ring 01274 254701.