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.
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
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.
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 Senior Leadership Team and Board of Directors
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Operations Officer
Chief Financial Officer
Dr. Christy Sutherland
Director, Operations - Victoria
Board Chair | Chair, Executive Committee | Governance Committee | Risk, Finance & Audit Committee
Board Chair | Chair, Executive Committee | Governance Committee | Risk, Finance & 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.
board vice chair | Executive Committee | Risk, Finance & 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.
Treasurer | Executive Committee | Risk, Finance & Audit Committee
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.
Board Secretary | Executive Committee
Raema Quam is a workplace lawyer with extensive experience with non-profits and excellent knowledge of the Downtown Eastside, having been a social worker in the neighbourhood prior to her legal career.
Her love of travel took her around the globe for several years, building experience working with a range of organizations in the public and private sectors, focusing on organizational management and leadership development. Raema has wide-ranging experience working with Vancouver community groups and in strategic development, consulting. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Victoria, Canada and completed the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs in San Francisco. Raema graduated from the Juris Doctor program at the University of British Columbia in 2017, and was called to British Columbia bar in 2018.
Raema is a Senior Manager, Faculty Relations at University of British Columbia.
Acting Board Secretary | Executive Committee | Human Resources committee
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.
Chair, Governance Committee | Executive 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.
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.
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.
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.
Chair, Human Resources Committee | Executive 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.
Human Resources Committee
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.
Risk, Finance & Audit 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.
Risk, Finance & Audit 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.
Community Advisory Committee Minutes
View meeting minutes from the Community Advisory Committee for Temporary Modular Housing