Paid by Poverty

The recent scandal of the Eastside Vancouver charity PHS Society and its massive mishandling and inappropriate spending of money — funds that would presumably have gone to some of the most desperate neighbourhoods in Canada, sickened me. Such abuse of money. Such entitlement. I wanted to slap the guy.

I guess in the most literal sense, I make money off poverty and injustice as well (not that much I can assure you); because that’s what I write about the most. Once (and probably it should have been more often), I declined payment for a project because I grew dizzy at the thought of benefitting from the disaster. It was an appeal letter for the earthquake in Haiti. I’ve also (and I know friends who have done the same) claimed less money when I felt a project took much less time and effort than budgeted for, and it felt dishonest to do otherwise. After all, who wants to rip off a charity (besides our friends in East Van of course)? I have also asked for more when I felt like I was the one being robbed. And that’s okay too.

Behind almost every charity there are people being paid. That’s what government guidelines and audits are for (and yay for the auditors who caught this one!); to make sure donor dollars go where donor dollars should.

I have written for many, many people who would have/could have made a lot more money in the private sector, but they choose to work for less in the non-profit world because that is where their heart resides. I have watched people pay out of pocket for legitimate expenses they could have charged their charity but didn’t. And, thankfully, I’ve yet to meet anyone who flew their family to Disney with money meant for people who will never, ever, ever get there themselves.

2 Comments

  1. Karen, I totally understand your outrage about this, but I don’t believe the press are giving the whole story. It is not uncommon for donors to give to designated gifts to charitable organizations like this—gifts designated for spending on the hard-working, seriously-prone-to-major-burnout, emotionally-taxed-beyond-reason staff who often work for lower wages than they could get in other social services work. If those monies are not tracked and accounted for properly, things could look very, very messy. There is a strong bias in upper-middle-class Vancouver (and in the Harper government) against the movers and shakers in the Downtown Eastside, which makes me read these allegations with caution. While I’m certain that errors of judgement were made, I am not certain that “taxpayer’s money” has been abused in the manner suggested.

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