Stepping up as Chair
Phoenix resident and previous Vice Chair of the Board, Carmen Simpson, has recently stepped as Chair and has taken the time to reflect on her next steps with Phoenix.
I have worked in social housing for over 25 years. My last job was as a Resident Engagement Officer for Southwark Council. I was part of setting up a Tenants and Residents Association which gave residents a say in the management of their homes and access to working with their local authority. I’ve also worked with Tenant Management Organisations to bridge the gap between tenants and their landlords, which was challenging but also very rewarding work.
I’ve lived in the North Downham area for over 20 years and have seen many changes in that time. Originally, I was a Lewisham Council tenant before becoming a Phoenix resident after the stock transfer in 2007. I remember having the same trepidations and concerns as many of the other residents in the stock transfer: will they hike the rent up? Will I still get my repairs done? Will my needs as a resident be heard? Phoenix made over 100 promises to us, and I’m pleased to say that everyone was fulfilled. Transferring from the Council to Phoenix was like day-to-night. It felt exciting to be part of something new and joining an organisation that was run by its residents.
I’d always wanted to get involved with Phoenix and once I retired in 2015, I finally had the time and capacity to do so. I decided to see how I could get involved by looking at Phoenix’s website and found that there was a vacancy for a resident board member. I applied and went for an interview. The interview panel fed back that I had a great interview but wasn’t quite ready to join the board.
They recommended that I join the Phoenix Gateway Committee to gain a greater understanding of how the board worked and what Phoenix was about. So, I did. I learnt a lot and really gained an insight into how Phoenix is run and the role of its board. After three months on the Gateway Committee, I was appointed as a tenant board member.
At the time, Anne McGurk was due to become Chair and approached me about becoming her Vice Chair. At first the prospect of becoming Vice Chair was daunting but Anne mentored me in preparation for my appointment. I felt I had something to bring to the board, not only my 25 years of experience working in housing, but as a resident voice. I also felt proud to represent my heritage, bring some much-needed diversity to the board and help reflect the diversity of our residents and community.
Anne has been a great mentor over the years and a great support to all the board members. Working with her has shown me the serious responsibility of being Chair and the compassion she’s shown for Phoenix residents and staff has been inspiring.
I am honoured to be stepping up as Chair and look forward to working with my fellow board members to continue to build on the great foundation laid by our past two amazing chairs.
As Chair, I hope to embed our new Grove Park residents into the Phoenix way, offering opportunities to enable them to have an equal voice by being represented at all levels of engagement. I am excited by the future of Phoenix and its potential to lead the housing sector with its resident-led model.