Tributes have been paid to a well-known and much-respected social housing professional who died last month.
The death of Sumitra Gomer, who was Divisional Director of Housing Assets at the London Borough of Waltham Forest, came as a shock to many.
During her time working in the social housing sector, Sumitra held senior positions at a number of housing associations and local authorities, including Hillingdon Council, Ealing Council and Ealing Homes, Rykneld Homes, Lambeth, and most recently Waltham Forest. She also worked in the private sector and as a consultant and senior policy adviser.
Paying tribute, Charlotte Graves, a former colleague and close friend of Sumitra going back 35 years, said: “Nothing was handed to Su. She built her career through hard work, achievement and commitment in a highly competitive environment.
“At Ealing Council as director of housing and then chief executive of Ealing Homes, Su was one of the first chief officers of Asian heritage and one of the first female directors of housing. We cannot underestimate how much her leadership signalled and paved the way for more senior executives of colour and for other women.
“Su leaves a tangible legacy in thousands of homes in the places where she worked – safer warmer homes for residents of social and affordable housing, new kitchens and bathrooms for many as a result of her successes in the decent homes programme.
“Su was totally committed to providing the best possible homes and services to residents wherever she was working. She believed strongly in the social justice and equalities issues embodied in the provision of high-quality housing.
Charlotte added that Sumitra was also committed to the welfare and development of her staff and colleagues.
“She encouraged and helped shape the career of more junior staff, including encouraging qualification training, and how grateful those people are to this day. And how supportive she was to everyone she worked with,” she said.
“Working In social housing can be really tough. Resilient is one of the words which has come up many times when I asked people how I should describe Su at work and the other words that came up all the time were practical and hard working.
“That was important because when you are trying to turn a service round, deliver a major project and set an example to others, hard work and putting the hours in and getting things done does matter.”
Charlotte added: “We will miss you so much and will always remember you, our adrenaline filled years in the housing world, and all the fun times we had together outside of work. Thank you for being a wonderful friend and colleague and an example to us all.”
Modester Anucha, Corporate Director of Housing Strategy and Options at Waltham Forest, also paid tribute.
“I am yet to come across a person who can rival her passion for social justice, dedication to duty, loyalty, commitment to equality and desire to lift others up, ” she said.
“Su challenged the status quo as an early game changer by ensuring that aspiring BME staff were provided with opportunities to help them achieve their potential. This is part of her legacy and many will never forget her.”