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Pauline York

Pauline York

When Pauline York had her job interview with DAMHA, having heard she came from a mining family, the Chief Executive at the time, Gordon Gray, said: “Well Pauline, if you don’t get the job, at least you will be eligible for one of our bungalows.”

Needless to say, Pauline did get the job and like the fact that people no longer need to have a mining link to live in one of our homes, a lot has changed since that day in 2007.

And after retiring in February, following 14 years working at DAMHA, we asked her to reflect on her time with us and her career in life in general.

“After bringing up my son Iain, I started work for Derwentside District Council in 1984, working as a Housing Benefit Assessor.

“We worked closely with the Housing Officers, and I remember thinking they had a thankless job because in my case I was helping people access benefits whereas they had to deal with things like rent arrears and anti-social behaviour.

“Needless to say, I ended up becoming one myself, and enjoyed it and ended up becoming a Neighbourhood Manager, which involved managing a team of 5 people.

“Following a restructure, I worked in business development and improvement and then the council transferred its homes to Derwentside Homes, and this brought me to DAMHA’s door.

“I was interviewed in front of the organisation and personnel sub-committee and was appointed housing manager, with this title shortly being changed to Head of Housing.

“Gordon Gray told me when I started that working for DAMHA was like being a family and I couldn’t agree more.

“We’re one of many housing associations who have something about residents being at the heart of everything in their values or mission statements, but at DAMHA that is certainly the case.

“We do go the extra mile and example is how we always give new residents up to 14 days rent free because we recognise that many need help moving in from their families or friends and this often has to be done at the weekends.

“When I first joined, I thought that was a crazy policy but it’s actually an amazing thing and sums up everything which is great about DAMHA.”

In 2017, Pauline also took on responsibility for development/asset management, which led to her job title being changed to Operations Director.

From 2017 to 2022, Pauline has overseen the completion of several new schemes, including Consett, Philadelphia, and most recently Wheatley Hill, as well as overseeing upgrades to our existing homes through our planned maintenance programme.

She adds: “Another thing we do differently at DAMHA is when we identify stock which we deem to be surplus to requirements for a number of reasons. We only sell the homes when they become empty, and residents can remain in them if they wish or be given a priority move.

“One gentleman wanted to remain in his own, which we said was fine, but a few years later he did move, and he told me it was the best thing he had one and I should have listened at the time. But I said no, because the time wasn’t right for you then, and now it was.

“And once we received a report that a man had not been seen for a while, so I went to his house with the police, and we had to break the keychain on his door to get in. He was freezing cold and distressed but we made him a hot cup of tea, wrapped him in a blanket and chatted to him until the ambulance arrived.

“That’s another good example of how we go the extra mile.”

One of Pauline’ many funny memories of her time at DAMHA came when she, in her own words. “blew myself up.”

She explains: “I didn’t realise the gas cooker was on so when I went to light it, it exploded, and I had burns to my hands and face.

“The next day when I came to the office and told Gordon what had happened, he went out an bought me a gas lighter!”

Pauline is planning to spend her retirement enjoying walks and time with her partner David, spending time with their grandchildren, going on “Thelma and Louise” trips with her sister Pamela, looking after her elderly father and indulging her love of cricket. She’s even bought herself a cricket scoring book to keep tally when she and David are watching Durham play this season.

She says: “I will miss the staff and residents at DAMHA, but I will definitely stay in touch; and I leave with many fond memories of my time here.”