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Belfast Met Homelessness Awareness Panel Event

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To honour the work of Gerry Skelton in addressing homelessness, Elaine Hartin (College Deputy Director) and Robert McDowell (Rea Estates Director and HAP Event sponsor) presented College and industry gifts to Gerry to mark the 10th anniversary of his pioneering Homelessness Awareness Panel Event and associated work.

Elaine Hartin (College Deputy Director) commented:

“It is with great pride that I, on behalf of Belfast Metropolitan College, present Gerry with a token of appreciation for his personal and professional efforts to challenge all of us, myself and the Directorate included, to take the issue of homelessness seriously. Many of us have learned from Gerry the importance of seeing a person first rather than a label, which I have brought into my work and family life. Gerry has successfully integrated the issue of homelessness into the College curriculum and support services in terms of student induction, staff training, awareness raising events, etc. and the whole College has felt the impact of Gerry’s leadership and tireless efforts in this regard. And, as many will readily testify, his work has made a real difference to students, staff and many external agencies and people. He has done this with his usual determination, limited resources and an irrepressible spirit! This is why I chose this particular College gift; a framed quote ‘That nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm’ and Gerry is proof-positive of that, and his decade of HAP Events have left a lasting legacy to be built upon by all.

Robert McDowell (Director, Rea Estates) presented Gerry with an inscribed plaque commented:

“I am honoured to present this gift to Gerry on behalf of the broader sector and the many people he has served through the HAP event in particular: and the inscription is well merited: ‘In recognition of your 10th HAP event & the outstanding contribution you made to all the people you served’. Gerry’s energy and enthusiasm is apparent to all who encounter him and his work; and offers such inspiration and leadership. He has challenged all of us across various sectors to cooperate in addressing homelessness and, as a private sector representative, I applaud that wholeheartedly and delighted to be working with him”.

In representing the homelessness sector, Declan Morris (Project Manager, Extern Homes) commented:

"I am privileged to share in presenting this gift to you, Gerry in honour of those that you have served over the course of 10 years of the HAP. I, along with Grace (Price) wish to recognise your contribution to the whole homelessness sector, that has connected so many for the benefit of service users and practitioners alike”.

In accepting these gifts, Gerry responded:

“I am deeply humbled and truly delighted to receive these lovely and encouraging words of praise and gifts too, for my efforts to champion this cause for so many years. My Homelessness Awareness Panel Event has been one of the major manifestations of this campaign: and really hard to believe it has reached a decade!

Thank you to everyone who has helped, encouraged, provoked and sustained my efforts to serve what I know has been a labour of love (with all the attendant joys and heartaches!). My fervent hope is that colleagues will come forward and (with students and service users / carers), continue this important leadership work, because it is a matter of public record that it has been instrumental in changing policy and practice direction in several spheres; clearly embodied in the most significant words of Sean Holland (Chief Social Services Officer) along with others at the various HAP Events (and the 2016 HAP presentations can be seen at

I now bow out from directing the annual HAP event at Belfast Met but remain firmly committed to challenging the spectre of homelessness which never sleeps: neither must I or we until it is firmly addressed; and those it impacts lovingly and meaningfully served.


To celebrate Gerry Skelton’s 10th anniversary of his Homelessness Awareness Panel Event, Sean Holland and Gerry met to discuss the praxis between social work education, training and practice. Commenting on this initiative, Gerry Skelton remarked: “I was deeply honoured and really impressed that Sean kindly gave of his time and self in what turned into a warm, robust and candid exchange of views, challenges and opportunities. His gesture was a real support for me and my work in trying to ensure Homelessness is given a home in our social work agenda, priorities, heads and hearts!

It is a fundamental issue of justice; and to hear the Chief social Servicers Officer readily concede this and demand social work does better, was a truly humbling moment for me and all who heard it at the 2016 Homelessness Awareness Panel Event. This now joint clarion call is a fitting tribute to my years of campaigning and, for that, I am truly grateful to Sean. I look forward with hope and expectation to how social work responds in 2017 and beyond”.

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