Tributes have been paid to a “tenant champion” who has passed away after a long illness, aged just 57.
Gill Lawson was a founding board member of Community Gateway, the very first Gateway Model housing association in the country. Her passion for the tenants’ voice was clear to see, and led to her being invited to many other housing associations, conferences, and even the Houses of Parliament to present her unique perspective on tenant involvement and promote the Gateway Model.
Nic Bliss, Head of Policy at the Confederation of Co-operative Housing, supported Community Gateway during the stock transfer of Preston City Council homes to the Preston-based landlord in 2005. He has fond memories of Gill, who was a member of the shadow board,
“Take it from me – she was a special woman! She was very instrumental in setting Community Gateway up. I remember the first meeting she came to - she sat at the back saying nothing, and then right at the end she asked me very sheepishly in a quiet voice ‘Do you think I could get involved?’ A far cry from the feisty and lively person she later became!”
Louise Mattinson, Executive Director of Customers and Communities at Community Gateway recalls,
“She was my customer conscience on my shoulder, for example if we were changing policies or structures, I always had ‘How is Gill going to react to this?’ at the back of my mind. She was the voice of the customer and was prepared to challenge you.”
“She would ask ‘Have customers been involved, is this right for the customer?’ She would hold people to account.”
Chief Executive of Gentoo, Nigel Wilson, was also a founding board member and served with Gill. He says,
“I worked alongside Gill for over 9 years; she was a heart-on-the-sleeve person who put the people of Preston and Gateway tenants first in everything. She could be fiery and was never shy in sharing exactly what she thought on the subject in discussion. She was a great board colleague, a woman of passion and pride in her Gateway and her Preston. She is missed.”
Gill stepped down from the Community Gateway board in 2014 but remained involved with the organisation as an associate member, continuing her active involvement in action groups where she reviewed service standards, policies and procedures and conducted mystery shopping.
Although her failing health began to slow her activism, it couldn’t stifle her passion.
Many of us at Community Gateway have lost a unique champion and friend.
Gill leaves behind her devoted husband Mick and two children.