Our People

Management Team

Phil Conn Director of Programmes

Phil Conn

Director of Programmes

Phil is our Director of Programmes, overseeing our Crisis Services, Empower and Aspire programmes. He has been with Oasis Community Housing for eight years and was one of the founding team members of our Basis@Gateshead walk-in resource centre. After heading our Crisis Services for several years, he has now progressed into his new role and will lead our work in domestic abuse support, helping those furthest from the job market and financial capability – as well as continuing to lead the way with our front line crisis work.

Before joining Oasis Community Housing, Phil worked in youth development for a VCS organisation delivering targeted youth support, intensive programmes and leisure activities. Prior to that Phil enjoyed a career in the catering industry.

Phil is part of the leadership team of his local church and a trustee of Soul Food Spaces, a food charity that that creates places for people to meet and eat together to build connection and community, improving body, mind and spirit.

Phil likes Pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, is an avid coffee snob and a keen cyclist.

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David Smith Chief Executive

David Smith
Chief Executive

David has been Chief Executive since September 2016 and is responsible for leading the organisation, setting the culture, vision and strategy, and representing Oasis Community Housing externally.

Working with charities in the UK and overseas, David has focused on projects working for social justice and the empowerment of the vulnerable. This has included managing the establishment of a nationwide reconciliation project for young people in Northern Ireland that tackled sectarianism; and fundraising roles with the international development charity, Tearfund. In his previous role as Head of International Programme with the Bible Society David oversaw a seven-figure grant-making programme that has brought transformational change in more than 40 countries worldwide.

David studied at the University of Glasgow for his undergraduate degree in Modern History and Politics, graduating in 1998. Over the following 10 years David also studied Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University in Washington DC, French language at University of Sunderland, and an MPhil in Reconciliation Studies from Trinity College, Dublin.

In his spare time David reads political philosophy and theology books, plays football with endless enthusiasm and suffers from following St Mirren, Sunderland AFC and the Scotland national team.

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Jen Gauden-Hand Director of Housing

Jen Gauden-Hand
Director of Housing

*Please note, Jen is currently on maternity leave.

Jen leads the Department responsible for supported housing provision, the Social Lettings Agency, Maintenance Team, and InForm data system, and has spent her working life to date within our charity.

After gaining a law degree (LLB) from the University of East Anglia, Jen took a gap year during which she volunteered for Oasis Charitable Trust, and had the opportunity to put her passions for young people and homelessness into action through working on a street outreach team in Central London, a substance misuse recovery centre and leading youth and children’s work for local churches.

Jen has 16 years’ experience in the housing and charity sector, and has undertaken frontline roles as a Support Worker, Deputy Manager and Project Manager before moving into senior management as Head of Housing and now Director of Housing. Work stream specialisms include supported housing for young people, and women.

In her spare time Jen loves snorkelling, photography, time with friends and family, and enjoys any excuse to bake. She can be found at her church, All Saints Peckham, singing in the worship band and helping out on the Fairtrade stall. Or in the stands at Selhurst Park watching Crystal Palace attempt to play football!

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Crystal Hicks Director of Development

Crystal Hicks
Director of Development

Crystal joined Oasis Community Housing in 2017 as Head of our Business Development Unit, and has now progressed to a new director role.

Before joining us, Crystal worked for over a decade in the charity sector, leading teams to engage supporters, generate sustainable income and create meaningful partnerships between charity, public and business sector organisations. She has worked for the National Trust, Southbank Centre and National Museums of Science and Industry and has a wealth of experience of fundraising across many sectors.

She has a first class degree from Newcastle University and a Masters in Cultural practice – a response to Equalities legislation. She has a passion for equality and diversity and sits on the Women in Social Housing North East board.

In her spare time Crystal looks after her twin daughters, and is a keen amateur runner (because she loves cakes, not running). She is also a trained florist and creates arrangements for her church, St Joseph’s in Benwell.

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Sarah Lister Director of Finance and Resources

Sarah Lister
Director of Finance and Resources

Sarah leads the finance team and the HR and admin team within Oasis Community Housing, ensuring that all of the back office functions and support is in place to enable our staff to effectively carry out their important roles.

Sarah has been a qualified chartered accountant for more than 18 years.  She has worked in the housing sector for a decade, and has been a senior leader within the sector for 8 years, leading on Finance, HR, IT and Governance.  She has worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Gateshead Housing Company and Northern Housing Consortium and has a wide skill set beyond finance.

Sarah is also treasurer for Durham Wildlife Trust.

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Una McNicholl Head of Employability

Una McNicholl
Head of Employability

Una leads the Aspire team, which works to support service users as they build the skills needed to find and secure work and develop their financial capability skills.

Her background is in education, learning and skills. She has worked in the voluntary sector, taught in a secondary school, has had 15 years in senior management in the Community Education Service at Gateshead Council and 15 years in senior leadership in education, employment and skills with Newcastle City Council.
She has an Honours Degree and Master Degree and a wealth of experience leading national programmes in the North East region.

Una is passionate about social justice and improving life chances, is a trustee with Twisting Ducks, a local theatre company for young adults with leaning difficulties, a volunteer providing support to adults with dyslexia and regularly visits our senior citizens as an SVP volunteer. She has two sons and was a keen runner but is now restricted to her bike. However, she has not yet cycled to visit her extended family in Ireland!

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The Reverend Kate Bottley

Vicar, mum of two, TV and radio broadcaster, Kate Bottley has been Patron of OCH since 2017. Kate is passionate about bringing stories of faith and belief to the widest audience possible and is a firm supporter of women’s issues and of ‘women helping women’ to overcome disadvantage and discrimination.

Originally from Sheffield, and graduate of Leeds Trinity University, in 2012 Kate was part of a wedding flashmob video which went viral and led to her being approached by Channel 4 to take part in Gogglebox, which has since resulted in her becoming a much loved household name.

Kate currently presents Good Morning Sunday on BBC Radio 2 alongside Jason Mohammed, and is a regular presenter on Songs of Praise and The One Show. She has also made guest appearances on Celebrity MasterChef, Hairy Bikers Cracking Christmas and 8 Out of 10 Cats.

In 2017 Kate journeyed to Camino de Santiago for The Pilgrimage, a three-part travelogue series for BBC 2. She has also presented and contributed to several BBC Radio 2 programmes including The Sunday Hour, Saturday Breakfast and the Weekday Breakfast Show.

Kate has recently discovered a new passion for open water swimming and regularly tweets of her swimming adventures.

Kate says of OCH:

I became a patron of Oasis Community Housing because of my passion to see women being given the right help and support to reach their full potential, whatever life has thrown at them, be that finding themselves homeless, in troubled family relationships, having been in and out of care, experiencing abuse, drug or alcohol addiction or mental health issues.  I have been inspired by seeing and hearing real stories of transformation made possible by the really special work that OCH does to show real love and worth to so many who have never experienced this before.

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Anita Morris

Anita Morris

Accountant Anita Morris joined the Board this year, bringing a wealth of financial experience to the table.
At present she leads a team preparing and submitting the financial accounts for some of the largest companies within the EU.

Anita has been with Procter and Gamble for 18 years and progressed to a variety of areas, including general accounting and supply chain accounting.

In her free time, Anita is an active church member and auditor for Holy Trinity Jesmond Church.

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Dr Caroline Wroe

Dr Caroline Wroe

Dr Caroline Wroe MBChB PhD is a consultant with the NHS, and the chair of Oasis Community Housing Board of Trustees. Caroline is married to Mark and they have three daughters. As an active member of her local church, Caroline is committed to living out her faith, and through OCH is passionate about seeing lives transformed by a radical Christ-like inclusion.

Experienced in safeguarding, confidentiality and data protection, dealing with conflict, and patient involvement and education, Caroline delivers essential knowledge and experience to the Board.

After training in Birmingham, and achieving her doctorate at Newcastle, Caroline developed a special interest in living kidney donation. Caroline is responsible for the regional living kidney donation service, which through collaboration and stakeholder involvement, has won national recognition. Continuing her academic studies, Caroline became honorary Professor of Teesside University in 2018.

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Kate Ginks

Kate Ginks

Kate Ginks is the managing director of Strategic Estates Ltd and a chartered surveyor.

She is adept at project managing brownfield and greenfield development sites and acquiring housing sites for both property development companies and national and regional house building firms.

Able to analyse and interpret a whole range of information, in the context of advising on planning related matters, Kate is invaluable to our Board as we manage eight sites in the North East and London, with plans to expand.

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Nick Salisbury

Nick Salisbury

Nick Salisbury spent three decades as a senior banker with Barclays, and now uses his financial knowhow for social benefit.

As well as a deep knowledge of Bank and Capital markets, lending within the corporate market and UK property and infrastructure market segments, Nick is adept at risk assessment and skilled in sound commercial judgement.

As a Trustee for Oasis Charitable Trust, he provides a valuable overview between the two Boards.

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Mark Bryant

Mark Bryant

Mark Bryant was Bishop of Jarrow for 11 years until late 2018.

He studied at St John’s College, Durham University, and then trained for the ordained ministry at Cuddesdon College for three years.

He has extensive experience as a Trustee, sitting on the Board of Depaul UK, the Lindisfarne Regional Training Partnership and a Hospital Trust.

He also serves our Board with his management, mentoring and pastoral skills and his impressive North East networking profile, lending key support to our fundraising events.

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Chris Aldridge

Chris Aldridge

Chris Aldridge became a Trustee for Oasis Community Housing in early 2018 and brings to the Board his knowledge as a property surveyor.

He works for the Original Factory Shop as an estates surveyor and holds valuable skills in negotiation, IT and report writing, not to mention his industry interests of rent reviews, lease renewals, property budgets, tender processes, financial management and developing tenant relationships.

He has worked for well-known names like Lidl, House of Fraser and Shelter UK.

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