Scandal leaves Vancouver's InSite vulnerable
Mark Townsend and 10 others leading the Portland Hotel Society are stepping down to save the organization’s many Downtown Eastside programs, but Health Minister Terry Lake has left the door open for change. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
We were left with the impossible choice — burn the village or do this. — Mark Townsend
B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake left the door open for changes to health programs — including harm reduction — run by the Portland Hotel Society in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
A new Portland Hotel Society team will “assess” the organization’s programs, Lake said Wednesday, as its former leaders stepped down in the midst of a spending scandal.
The organization that runs InSite — the supervised injection program on East Hastings Street — is currently facing criticism for its expenses for “such things as salaries for PHS management and staff, expenses for office space, food, ground transportation and staff appreciation,” and more, according to its lawyer.
Mark Townsend, outgoing executive director of PHS, said he was given a choice of either stepping down or facing receivership.
“The management team will all step aside and the board will step aside … it’s about 11 people,” he said.
“We have commitment from the province that no programs would be affected. Hopefully, it would be just as if we disappeared and things carried on.”
Lake told reporters it’s his hope PHS programs wouldn’t change, but there needs to first be an inspection of the spending “to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used appropriately.”
“Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Housing will work very hard to ensure those services will be maintained … Obviously we have some concerns after the audit was done,” Lake said.
“The new board and new management team will obviously assess programing.”
According to the PHS, it provides services to more than 10,000 vulnerable people each year. Those services include housing, health care and support.
It also operates 24 housing units comprising more than 1,000 units.