Our Mission

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We develop, maintain and promote affordable housing

Our housing is for individuals who are poorly served elsewhere in the community due to their physical health, mental health, behavioural issues, substance dependencies, forensic history, and for those who are homeless.

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PHS is for everyone in need of our services

We will not discriminate against people with: a mental health diagnosis | physical disabilities and/or ailments | a history of criminal activity and/or involvement in the criminal justice system | active alcohol, and/or drug use | any combination of the above, or in need of housing

Our History

In 1991, psychiatric nurse Liz Evans began supporting marginalized people from a single-room occupancy hotel in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The area was the epicentre of a wave of overdose deaths and the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infections in the Western World. Poverty and exclusion were increasing along with homelessness and drug use.

By providing accommodation and harm reduction at the Portland Hotel, Liz introduced the concept of Housing First to North America. It’s an approach in which people experiencing homelessness are offered housing as quickly as possible, without preconditions.

The Portland Hotel Society was incorporated in August 1993.

What’s in a name?

We changed our name to PHS Community Services Society in July 2003.

This was to reflect our growth from the initial Portland Hotel, expanding to provide more housing and more supportive programs that promote social inclusion and human rights for the most under-served members of society.

Since its inception, PHS has developed and delivered innovative programming for people otherwise excluded from services. In 2003, PHS opened Insite, North America’s first legal supervised injection site, and more recently we’ve been leading with innovative safe supply programs.

Our Partners

PHS is only able to support the most marginalized people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Inner Victoria because of the ongoing belief and support of key partner organizations and our funders. Thank you for making this possible.

Our Team

Our Senior Leadership Team and Board of Directors

Micheal Vonn

Chief Executive Officer

Kim Hiebert

Chief Operations Officer

Tanya Fader

Interim Director of Programs

Duncan Higgon

Interim Director of Housing

Devinder Sekhon

Chief Financial Officer

Dr. Christy Sutherland

Medical Director

Avery Taylor

Director of Victoria Operations

Adam Munnings

board chair

Adam Munnings

board chair

Adam is Anishnaabe from Curve Lake First Nation, an Aboriginal Lawyer and founder of Munnings Law.

He has acted as general counsel for Aboriginal communities on economic development, specific claims, reserve land management, employment, governance, accommodation of Aboriginal rights, and negotiations and agreements with government and industry. In June 2015, Adam completed his MBA in Aboriginal Business and Leadership at Simon Fraser University, to better support his client’s business needs. This paved the way for founding Munnings Law in 2016, a boutique Aboriginal and Business Law firm.

In addition to the PHS Board, Adam serves as Chair of the Vancouver Aboriginal Health Society, as a member of Canadian Bar Association British Columbia (CBABC) Provincial Council, and as a member of the Curve Lake First Nation Finance Committee. He previously served as Chair of the CBABC Aboriginal Lawyers Forum, Chair of North Shore Restorative Justice and as President of the Aboriginal Housing Management Association. Adam has written articles, and presented at professional education courses and as a guest lecturer at University of British Columbia and the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology

He has recently started fly fishing, hunting and powerlifting, and enjoys the outdoors, camping and finding time for travel with his wife and dogs.

Christine Singh

board vice chair

Christine Singh

board vice chair

Dr. Christine Singh is a family physician who has worked in Vancouver since 2006, including 10 years working at Three Bridges Clinic as well as other clinical settings with a harm reduction ethos including Vancouver Native Health, Youth Detox, and Outreach. Early in her career she worked for a short time in several remote Indigenous communities. Christine is committed to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and UNDRIP.

Currently, Christine practices at Lu’Ma Medical Centre, Langara Student Health, and continues to take shifts at DTES Connections Clinic providing low-barrier opioid agonist treatment. She cares deeply about social justice issues and is committed to cultural safety and humility practices. Christine has served on the Board of the BC College of Family Physicians for seven years. She is a clinical faculty member with the UBC Indigenous Family Practice Program. Over the years, Dr. Singh has worked with some of the amazing PHS physicians who staff the innovative clinics PHS operates.

Christine hopes to contribute to improving housing and social conditions for the many people living with the complexity of trauma, mental and physical illness and who face ongoing systemic barriers to health. She is a mother to a wonderful 13-year-old human, a dog and two cats, and is grateful to live on the unceded Coast Salish Territories. 

Varun Banthia

Treasurer, Secretary

Varun Banthia

Treasurer, Secretary

Varun is a public servant and auditor with experience at the local, federal and international levels.

He holds a Bachelor of Commerce with a specialization in accounting from UBC, and a Master of Public Administration from New York University. He was also designated a Certified Internal Auditor in 2019. Varun has worked as an auditor with Vancouver Coastal Health and the United Nations, as a risk consultant with KPMG Ottawa, and in anti-corruption policy with the OECD. He is currently employed as a senior consultant at Deloitte, specializing in public sector risk and audit quality.

Varun is passionate about issues affecting vulnerable populations in Vancouver. He has served as a City Council advisor on disability access, on the board of the Dugout Drop-In Centre, and as a first responder at the Overdose Prevention Society. For his efforts in the DTES, Varun was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers, issued by Governor General of Canada in June 2021.

Jeff Brooks

Past Board Chair

Jeff Brooks

Past Board Chair

Jeff brings extensive experience as former Director of Social Planning for the City of Vancouver.

During his 11-year tenure he oversaw Vancouver’s comprehensive program of social development, providing the City with information, advice and policy recommendations about social issues. Jeff oversaw the provision of financial support to community organizations including neighbourhood initiatives, childcare programs and those covering children, youth, family issues, substance abuse and mental health matters. He was also involved with grants programs, including community services, childcare support and capital grants considerations.

He has 20 years’ prior experience of public service initiatives in the Vancouver and provincial environment. In addition to an extensive working knowledge of pressing Downtown Eastside issues, Jeff brings considerable public service involvement in provincial and neighbourhood associations throughout Greater Vancouver, serving on a large number of advisory committees.

Donna Baines

Donna Baines

Donna Baines is the Director of the School of Social Work at University of British Columbia. She brings a strong background in anti-oppressive practice and a desire to deepen the connection between social-justice-engaged social work education and the DTES.

A globally recognized scholar, Donna has collaborated extensively with research projects in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Scotland. Her research focuses on paid and unpaid work, anti-oppressive/critical social work theory and practice, and social policy and austerity. She founded and co-edits the online journal Social Work & Policy Studies: Social Justice, Practice and Theory.

Baines is author of the popular book Doing Anti-Oppressive Practice, Social Justice Social Work. The fourth edition is currently in publication.

Penny Gurstein

Penny Gurstein

Penny Gurstein is a Professor Emeritus and former Director of the School of Community and Regional Planning at UBC.

She is the founding Director of the Housing Research Collaborative, a community of housing researchers, providers and policymakers focused on the development of models to address housing unaffordability.  She previously sat on the Board of Commissioners of BC Housing, and is strongly committed to the strengthening of the non-profit housing sector.  Penny specializes in the socio-cultural aspects of community planning with particular emphasis on those who are the most marginalized in planning processes. She has considerable experience working with community groups in the greater Vancouver region.

Penny was the 2016 recipient of the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Education, Training and Development.

Bobbi Hoadley

Bobbi Hoadley

Bobbi Hoadley is an experienced professional in counselling, therapy and rehabilitation services provision, and a longstanding advocate for people living with disability.

She is a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst and Clinical Counsellor who is fully qualified in neuropsychiatric behavioural therapy and rehabilitation. Since 2004 Bobbi has provided client-centred, solution-focused therapy and intervention for individuals living with mental health challenges. Her expertise in adolescent and adult mental health recovery integrates counselling, recovery and rehabilitation with the technology of Applied Behaviour Analysis. Bobbi is an In-Service Teacher who provides consulting and clinical supervision in hospitals and facilities throughout British Columbia. She served on Vancouver City Council’s Persons with Disability Advisory Board, and as a Board member of both the Stroke Recovery Association of British Columbia and Girl Guides of Canada.

Bobbi is the author of Babes in the Woods – The Women’s Guide to Eating Well, Sleeping Well, and Having Fun in the Backcountry.

Perry Kendall

Perry Kendall

As B.C. Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Perry Kendall declared a public health emergency over the province’s significant rise in opioid-related overdose deaths.

The 2016 declaration of a public health emergency allowed collection and analysis of real-time information, and for proactive action to warn and protect people who use drugs. Always outspoken, Dr. Kendall detailed that the emergency powers would see health staff working in a coordinated way to bring help to those who need it most. He publicly supported the opening of Insite in 2003, consistently speaking in support of the facility and harm reduction in general in an era when the media was much more skeptical on the subject. He retired in 2018, handing over to his deputy Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Dr. Kendall has produced an extensive list of reports and publications, served on many health-related committees and was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 2005 and the Order of Canada in 2020 for his work in public health.

Stephen Learey

Stephen Learey

Stephen has a long history working in the Downtown Eastside. He was hired by Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA) in 1984 to advocate for low income residents, campaigning for improved living conditions in SRO hotels. He went on to become Assistant Organizer to DERA Executive Director Jim Green and was part of a team that built hundreds of units of social housing, including the original Portland Hotel.

As Executive Director of the Urban Community Development Unit with the provincial Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services he worked with community groups around British Columbia.

During his time with the provincial government Stephen was involved in creating and funding innovative programs for low-income marginalized communities in urban areas throughout B.C. He left this role to become Executive Assistant to Mayor Larry Campbell, working together driving the supervised injection site initiative. He currently is the Executive Director of Strathcona Community Dental Clinic.

Aman Malhi

Aman Malhi

Aman is a business leader looking to give back to the wider community, who joined the Board after a year volunteering on our Human Resources committee.

Aman lives a purpose-driven life, and that purpose has always been to be of service to the community around her. She volunteers for a number of different organizations that enable people to do their best work and live their best life every day. A senior Human Resources leader with experience across a range of organizations, Aman is happiest when she’s learning new things, especially when it also involves meeting people and using her business skills in a slightly new capacity. She initially volunteered for the Human Resource committee to learn more about PHS and our role in dealing with intersecting community crises.

Aman says that reading, networking, intellectually heavy conversations and the outdoors ‘charge’ her. She’s to be found outside exploring beautiful B.C. year-round.

Ben Milne

Ben Milne

Ben Milne was born and raised in the Lower Mainland. His post-secondary education was at Simon Fraser and UBC where he received an M.A. in women’s studies and an M.B.A. in human resources.

Ben’s work experience is mainly in human resources and sustainability. He was responsible for global HR at InterWrap, overseeing 1600 employees in Canada, the US, China and India. Currently he works at the Milne family charity, Unbounded Foundation, which manages active and passive investments, funds research on substance use and supports organizations such as Pivot and Union Gospel Mission.

Ben has been involved with the Simon Fraser Students’ Society, serving on the board of directors, including a period as Chair. He also served as a board member at Pacific Cinematheque, a non-profit Canadian film institute, and is currently Treasurer of the Action at a Distance dance company and a board member of the BC Centre for Disease Control Foundation for Public Health.

He’s a proud father of one daughter and enjoys running and travel.

Geraldine Valle

Geraldine Valle

Geraldine Valle, a Canadian-American citizen originally from Houston, Texas, has advocated for underrepresented populations for the past decade.

Currently, Geraldine is a public servant within the Ministry of Attorney General. Beginning her mission to foster inclusivity, drive change, and champion the underserved, Geraldine held various youth leader positions with grass-roots organizations focused on civic engagement and voter participation. Geraldine’s focus on social equity propelled her to become a Legal Advocate for Lone Star Legal Aid’s Military and Veterans Unit. Simultaneously, she has also provided Spanish language interpretation for immigrant asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border.

Geraldine is a proud alumna of the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD).

Community Advisory Committee Minutes

View meeting minutes from the Community Advisory Committee for Temporary Modular Housing

Board of Directors
Community Advisory Committee Downloads

Annual Report 2023

PHS Annual Report shares stories and updates from the past year, a personal message from both our CEO and Board Chair, and a special thank you to our donors. (Email info@phs.ca for the 2022, 2021 and 2020 reports.)