Porchlight's inspirational leader to step down

After 24 years at the helm of Kent homelessness charity Porchlight, chief executive Mike Barrett is to step down.

Mike has taken Porchlight from a single hostel in Canterbury, with seven staff, to a major regional charity employing 200 that supports more than 7000 vulnerable and homeless children and adults each year.

He leaves Porchlight as it enters its 50th year. “It was always my intention to step down at this moment of reflection and rebirth for our organisation,” he said. “When I started this role in 1999, I would never have imagined that the UK would still need charities like Porchlight to support vulnerable people, but I leave behind a wonderful team that will continue to face the challenges of today’s world with dedication, professionalism and humanity.”

An inspiration for more than two decades

Hilary Edridge, chair of Porchlight, said that Mike had been an inspiration to those around him for more than two decades. “No one has been more dedicated to the care of vulnerable people in Kent than Mike. I speak for the whole of Porchlight when I thank him for the past 24 years. He will be much missed, but he leaves behind an organisation that has strength for the future.”

As well as developing homelessness services, Mike has supported the charity’s growth to provide services in areas such as mental health and support for young people. Under his leadership, total income has increased to £13.7m and he has expanded services across Kent, Medway and Bexley. Porchlight now manages 30 supported accommodation projects, providing temporary accommodation for people for up to two years.

No one has been more dedicated to the care of vulnerable people in Kent than Mike

“Mike’s guiding principle has been to provide high quality support that helps people to live independently,” said Hilary Edridge. “The result is a charity that involves the people we support in every aspect of the organisation, including recruitment panels, service development and mentoring.”

Mike started his career in the Royal Navy before working in the probation service and then social care and housing. He worked for 16 years for large national housing associations before taking on the role of chief executive of Porchlight.

He has been an advocate for people facing homelessness and poverty in Kent and nationally, working tirelessly to ensure the voluntary sector plays a key role in local and central government plans and that people have somewhere to turn for help when they need it most.

Mike is a professionally qualified member of the Chartered Institute of Housing, a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) and a member of the UK Housing Panel. Until 2021 he was chair of Homeless Link’s National Advisory Council, which meets to discuss the impact of government policy on homelessness.

Catherine Keen will become Porchlight’s interim chief executive. Cath has been with the charity for 17 years, most recently as chief finance and operating officer. Hilary Edridge chair of trustees said: “I look forward to working with Cath to ensure that Porchlight continues to be at the heart of the local communities it serves, as we continue to work with our network of partners to deliver the highest quality support for as many people facing homelessness, poverty and mental ill health as possible.”