Some Vancouver groups say they’re concerned that public perception of non-profits could be affected by the findings of two scathing audits of the Portland Hotel Society's finances.
The reports made public by B.C. Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health this week raised questions about spending by PHS executives, including expenses for international trips.
“The recent events and the recent results of the audit of the Portland probably, in some people’s minds, cast a pall over all the non-profit groups who provide housing and other services to low-income and marginalized residents, so it’s kind of a sad day for the sector in that sense, and also I think for the rank-and-file members of the Portland Hotel Society,” David Eddy, the CEO of Vancouver Native Housing Society, said in a phone interview.
“But the expenses, from reading the audit [and] hearing various reports, are inexcusable.”
Janice Abbott, the CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society, said she has concerns that leadership of all non-profits “will be assumed to be doing the same thing, and that people will be less likely or reluctant to support our work, donation-wise”.
“And that’s a big issue, because obviously…we count on donations from the community to help do the work we do—all non-profits do,” she told the Straight by phone. “So I worry there’ll be a period of time, and maybe a long period of time, where people are mistrustful. And I get it.”
Abbott said she was shocked when she read through the audits.
“There’s no explanation for the kinds of expenses that were detailed in the audit—no justification and no explanation,” she said. “I don’t understand.”
At the same time, she added, Portland Hotel Society staff “have done a lot of creative and innovative and good work” over the years.
“I don’t want the decisions that were made by…it sounds like a small group of people to colour how we feel about the work of the whole organization,” she stated.
Abbott noted that Atira is required to submit annual financial audits to B.C. Housing, and quarterly reports for federal grants, for its housing and other services in the Vancouver area.
She expects the PHS audit could result in more provincial financial reporting requirements for non-profits—a move she says she would welcome.
“My guess is there will be changes made…I see that as an opportunity, as opposed to a problem,” she said.