Gill Brown has been a champion of social inclusion for over 25 years, battling against homelessness and helping those with mental health issues or problems with substance misuse.
As Chief Executive of Brighter Futures – a post she has held for 22 years – Gill has helped to establish the organisation’s national reputation as a provider of top quality, innovative services for some of the hardest to reach and disadvantaged people in North Staffordshire.
Formally known as Potteries Housing Association, Gill joined as a manager and has since built the organisation from 12 staff and a single hostel to 175 staff and a £6 million turnover.
“We are a regeneration organisation and we help people find accommodation and housing but it’s not just about bricks and mortar,” Gill said, “it’s about people and helping them to develop skills and get the training they need to participate in their communities and become more economically independent.”
Gill, who lives in Newcastle-under-Lyme, came to Stoke-on-Trent in 1988. She arrived from London with her partner, who was setting up a business with a friend and mentor that had got a job at North Staffordshire Polytechnic, now Staffordshire University.
“The University is responsible for bringing me to Stoke in a roundabout way,” she said.
Prior to her arrival in the Potteries, Gill grew up in Essex and later studied Economics and Social History at the University of East Anglia. She left in 1977 and moved to London, getting a job on Fleet Street, in the Reuters library, in 1980. She then briefly moved to Suffolk before returning to the capital and getting a job designing an exhibition for the West Ham Centenary.
She said: “There are lots of challenges in Stoke but the place gets to you! I like it.”
Her time at Brighter Futures has seen partnerships formed with various local organisations, including Staffordshire University, and has provided many placements for Social Work students over the years.
The Award of Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University is bestowed upon Gill for being a leader and role model in tackling issues affecting the homeless and other socially excluded groups, as well as for giving students the opportunity to work with vulnerable people.