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: • Persons with a mental health diagnosis • Persons with physical disabilities and/or ailments • Persons with a history of criminal activity and/or involvement in the criminal justice system • Persons who engage in active alcohol, and/or drug use • Persons with any combination of the above, or persons 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.

The Portland Hotel Society (renamed PHS Community Services Society in 2003) was founded to provide harm reduction, housing and 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.

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

Susan Alexman

Director, Programs

Tanya Fader

Director, Housing

Devinder Sekhon

Director, Finance, Social Enterprise and Admin

Dr. Christy Sutherland

Medical Director

Avery Taylor

Interim Director, Operations - Victoria

Vacant

Human Resources Director

Allen Garr

Board Chair

Allen Garr

Board Chair

Allen has spent most of his career as a journalist, working locally, nationally and internationally, winning the provincial 2014 Jack Webster City Mike award for reporting excellence.

He’s probably best known in the city for a Vancouver Courier civic column which ran for 19 years, and has also been a CKNW talk-show host, CBC labour reporter and legislative columnist for the Province newspaper. In 1985 he published the biographical book Tough Guy: Bill Bennett and the Taking of British Columbia. He has been involved with board work for the past 20 years. He was on the board of Vancouver Resource Society, providing housing and support to people with disabilities for five years, including three as President. Allen served on the board of Vancity Credit Union for six years during which time he chaired the Governance, Nominations and Election, and Human Resources committees. He also served on the board of Citizens Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of the credit union.Allen earned his board director’s ICD.D designation in a program offered by the National Institute of Corporate Directors through Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.

Jeff Brooks

Chair, Risk, Finance and Audit Committee

Jeff Brooks

Chair, Risk, Finance and Audit Committee

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.

Stephen Learey

Chair, Human Resources Committee

Stephen Learey

Chair, Human Resources Committee

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.

Jan Christilaw

Chair, Governance Committee

Jan Christilaw

Chair, Governance Committee

Dr. Jan Christilaw brings leadership and experience in British Columbia healthcare issues to PHS Community Services Society.

She recently retired as the President of BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, having served an eight-year term. Jan received her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from McMaster University, continuing her education at the University of British Columbia, receiving a Masters of Health Science in 2002.

Dr. Christilaw brings a vision for women’s health issues to the board, and has been very generous in providing her time to important health initiatives. She is a frequent presenter at health and leadership forums, providing her broad experience in a provincial and national context. Jan is also extremely supportive of grassroots community initiatives and is committed to contributing her time and talents to PHS.

Maureen Collier

Treasurer and Member Fundraising Committee

Maureen Collier

Treasurer and Member Fundraising Committee

Maureen Collier (CPA, CMA) is a retired financial management professional with 30 years’ experience in non-profits, cooperatives and social enterprises both in public and commercial spheres.

She has served on non-profit boards including REACH Community Health Centre and carsharing coop Modo. Maureen has worked in the inner city for several years as the Finance Manager for Tides Canada Initiatives Society, as an accountant for the Tradeworks Training Society and as the Finance Manager with BOB – Building Opportunities with Business Inner City Society. Prior to that, she was the Controller for Family Services of Greater Vancouver.

Maureen understands the challenges of building successful enterprises that achieve multiple objectives while operating within a government-funded charitable model

Nathan Edelson

Board Member

Nathan Edelson

Board Member

Nathan Edelson is a Senior Partner with 42nd Street Consulting – a company that focuses on planning for inclusive communities.

A former adjunct professor with the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning, he is currently working on securing local jobs and procurement from major development and planning the future of the False Creek South neighbourhood.

Nathan worked for the City of Vancouver planning department from 1983 to 2008. For 15 years, he was the senior city planner for the Downtown Eastside, working on initiatives related to housing, heritage, community economic development, social services and healthcare facilities. Here he formed close relationships with an array of organizations, including PHS when Insite and Woodward’s were developed.

Before joining the City, he was the founding Executive Director of Little Mountain Neighbourhood House and is currently on the Board of the Alexandra Foundation which provides funds for existing and emerging neighbourhood houses

Ruth Herman

Secretary and Member Governance Committee

Ruth Herman

Secretary and Member Governance Committee

Ruth Herman is retired lawyer who focussed on workers’ health and safety issues during her career with different unions. She was an elected Vancouver School Board trustee, a long-serving executive member of COPE and is now active in One City, whose focus is on promoting housing and opportunities for low income people.

Ruth has sat on the board of REACH Community Health Clinic for more than 15 years, and is committed to improving healthcare throughout our community. She also founded and continues as co-chair of the Vancouver South African Film Festival that raises money for impoverished school children in South Africa and Canada.

Ruth believes in strong and effective advocacy as a way to empower people to improve their living conditions, both at home and at work.

Libby Davies

Board Member

Libby Davies

Board Member

Libby Davies has a long-standing relationship with the Downtown Eastside going back to the seventies. She was a community organizer before becoming an elected member of Vancouver City Council for five terms (1982-1993).

Libby served six terms as MP for Vancouver East (1997-2015), including Deputy Leader of the NDP from 2007-2015 and House Leader from 2003-2011. Her advocacy on critical issues affecting the Downtown Eastside and vulnerable populations across the country helped develop her Parliamentary leadership on drug policy reform, harm reduction, safe consumption sites, sex worker rights and safety, housing and homelessness, healthcare and human rights.

Libby maintained a close relationship with her riding and worked with many frontline organizations, including PHS Community Services Society. She was a tireless advocate for Insite and services for people who use drugs, being a proponent of community-based action that respects people’s rights and dignity. She has extensive knowledge and experience with governance, public policy development and working for transformative change.

In 2016, Libby was awarded the Order of Canada for her longstanding community contributions.

Flavio Caron

Human Resources Committee

Flavio Caron

Human Resources Committee

Flavio’s life has been immersed in all aspects of entrepreneurship, operating businesses and training others to succeed in theirs.

His career is steeped in economic development, health services as well as Indigenous cross-cultural education. Flavio currently designs and delivers training for Indigenous Corporation Training Inc. Providing education, support and guidance to a Who’s Who of Canadian groups including governments, non-profits and corporations in awareness, competency, consultation and engagement, employment and retention, and understanding complexities of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Flavio has served as VP of North Vancouver Football Club where he coaches and mentors, North Shore Restorative Justice Society and President of Steve Nash Youth Basketball North Vancouver. His favourite pastime is spending time with family. He brings expertise, personal skills and knowledge with Aboriginal issues, social enterprise and mental health.

Ben Milne

Chair, Fundraising Committee

Ben Milne

Chair, Fundraising Committee

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.

Arushi Raina

Fundraising Committee

Arushi Raina

Fundraising Committee

Arushi is passionate about sustainable health solutions for vulnerable communities.

She holds an Economics degree from Vassar College in the US and an MBA from the Richard Ivey Business School. She has worked across sectors including retail, real-estate, manufacturing, healthcare and the non-profit arena. At KPMG she worked with complex organizations including provincial ministries and major hospitals, assisting decision making, clinical redesign and strategic planning. She has local and provincial healthcare experience, including as senior strategy advisor for the introduction of diabetes prevention technology at BC Children’s Hospital and on a health startup accelerator for the Praxis Spinal Cord Institute. She has prior experience working with a neuroscience startup that improves the lives of people with brain injury.

Arushi also has international experience, which includes consulting with the World Bank, and has lived in the US, UK, South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. As a keynote speaker across BC schools and universities, Arushi focuses on diversity, social inclusion and the arts. Her novel When Morning Comes, set in apartheid-era South Africa, has been reviewed internationally.

Adam Munnings

Risk, Finance and Audit Committee

Adam Munnings

Risk, Finance and Audit Committee

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.

Jennifer Vornbrock

Fundraising Committee

Jennifer Vornbrock

Fundraising Committee

Jennifer Vornbrock brings 17 years of public service experience to PHS, with expertise in management of the impact of government policy on lawmakers at all levels.

She brings an extensive knowledge of health and social policy issues, including healthcare, housing and homelessness issues, social and economic development, post-secondary education, and issues affecting children, youth and women’s services issues.

Jennifer is currently employed by the University of Victoria, providing services to the university at the local, regional, provincial and national level. Jennifer recently worked for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, as well as for Vancouver Coastal Health in a number of capacities over an eleven-year period, dealing with the ever-developing area of providing health services to the residents of the Downtown Eastside.

Cheyenne Johnson

Governance Committee

Cheyenne Johnson

Governance Committee

Cheyenne was born in Salmon Arm and is a status member of the Tootinaowaziibeeng Treaty Reserve in Manitoba. She is a registered nurse who works in the area of addiction and substance use care in Vancouver.

In her current role as the Director of Activities and Development with the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse, she oversees development and dissemination of evidence-based clinical guidelines, practice tools and policy briefs. Cheyenne is also the Director of the BCCSU’s Addiction Nursing Fellowship Program and is passionate about educating healthcare providers and the public to reduce stigma and improve addiction care in BC.

She is also an Adjunct Professor at the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia and actively collaborates with interdisciplinary researchers across Canada.

Board Meeting and Community Advisory Committee Minutes

Please click the links to view meeting minutes from our Board and the Community Advisory Committee for Temporary Modular Housing

Board of Directors
Community Advisory Committee Downloads

2020 Minutes

Please email chair@phs.ca for board minutes.

2019 Minutes

Please email chair@phs.ca for board minutes.

Annual Report

Your support impacts the individuals we serve every year. 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.