Email announcing Portland Hotel Society head's sudden resignation describes "very difficult times"

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      The head of the Portland Hotel Society (PHS) has resigned after serving as the nonprofit’s interim executive director for just eight months.

      Eamonn O'Laocha took over the Downtown Eastside organization in late August 2015. He previously served on the organization's board of directors for 18 months.

      In an email sent to PHS staff this morning (May 6), Glenn McCurdy, chair of PHS’s board of directors, thanked O’Laocha for his work but provided few details about his sudden departure.

      “Eamonn has served the Society faithfully during some very difficult times, leading the organization as it continues to develop as a strong and sustainable force, providing community based health and housing services in the Downtown Eastside,” reads a copy of the email obtained by the Straight.

      “Eamonn has provided clear and unambiguous leadership to the PHS, engaging all of the stakeholders in the ongoing dialogue as to how we can best serve all of those who rely on the services of the PHS,” it continues.

      The email states O'Laocha’s resignation is effective immediately.

      It gives no explanation for his departure. It also fails to include a name for who is running the organization today.

      Interview requests sent to O'Laocha, PHS board members, and Vancouver Coastal health (VCH), the regional care provider through which PHS receives most of its funding, were not immediately returned. (Update: VCH has responded with a statement that includes no additional informaiton.)

      PHS is best known for operating Insite, North America’s first sanctioned supervised-injection facility. It has also led the way on other harm-reduction programs such as needle distribution, and more controversial services such as crack-pipe vending machines. In addition, PHS operates 19 social-housing sites in Vancouver.

      O'Laocha’s appointment as PHS interim executive director followed the retirement of Ted Bruce.

      Bruce similarly served as the organization’s head for just 14 months. He was appointed interim executive director in June 2014 after all four members of PHS’s former executive management team were forced to resign following the publication of an audit that detailed financial irregularities. Up until that point, Liz Evans and Mark Townsend had run PHS since its founding in 1993.

      According to Revenue Canada filings, PHS revenue for 2015 exceeded $27 million. The bulk of that—76 percent—came from government via B.C. Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health.

      PHS has experienced a period of transition since its founders were forced to leave the organization in March 2014.

      Following the release of a financial audit commissioned by B.C. Housing, Evans and Townsend plus Dan Small and Kerstin Stuerzbecher all resigned under threat of the organization being placed in receivership.

      More recently, PHS operations have been complicated by Vancouver Coastal Health initiating a reorientation of health-care in the Downtown Eastside. On April 27, that process saw PHS lose funding for a drop-in centre for drug users it has operated across the street from Oppenheimer Park.

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