One of the biggest community service organizations in the Downtown Eastside is having its spending practices come under serious fire by the provincial government.
Portland Hotel Society, which manages close to $60 million in government assets, has been audited by an independent firm, reportedly over spending irregularities.
The audit was first reported on by Global News in November, after issues were first noticed by BC Housing. And while the government wasn’t talking about repercussions then, they are now.
“[Receivership] is one of the options,” said Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for BC Housing, on Tuesday. “As you know we had to do that with the downtown residents association years ago.”
Coleman says there are issues with more than eight million dollars worth of spending on the organization’s housing side, and “substantial other millions” on the health side.
However, Portland Hotel Executive Director Mark Townsend says they’re surprised that there is such a large issue.
“We had no idea they were dissatisfied by the way we were working with them or the efforts we are making to address those concerns,” he told Global News.
“There are areas we can improve [but] there is nothing in there about misappropriation of funds.”
The society oversees 950 housing units at 16 locations. The annual budget for that is $34-million, while Coastal health contributes another $8.5 million to care for people.
Among its better known programs are the supervised-injection program Insite, a program that allows alcoholics to make their own beer, and a crack pipe dispensary. But they operate more basic services like banking and dental care and a coffee shop.
All of that could be restructured if Portland Hotel falls into receivership. For now, Townsend sounds confident that won’t happen.
“100 per cent of our money goes into the services.”
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