Don Evans has resigned as chief executive officer of Our Place after overseeing a period of rapid expansion at the Victoria drop-in centre, which serves some of the most vulnerable people in the capital region.
In seven years at the agency’s helm, Evans opened additional shelter beds, operated a temporary overdose-prevention site, piloted a pre-employment program and launched a therapeutic recovery community in View Royal’s former youth detention facility, the agency said.
“Don was very passionate and very driven,” said Grant McKenzie, director of communications for Our Place.
“He is a growth-oriented CEO and we’ve had unprecedented growth — especially over the last five years.
“So I think it’s great that he’s leaving the organization on a positive footing. A lot of times, CEOs can change when you’re in crisis and that’s not the case here at all. We’re in great shape and I think it’s probably time for the organization to slow down a little bit, to really focus to make sure that everything we have in place is the best it can be.”
McKenzie said Evans was travelling outside of the country on Tuesday and unavailable for interviews.
But Our Place released excerpts from his resignation letter in which he wrote that he was proud of the agency’s new addiction recovery, employment, education, and health-care services.
“These important achievements have taken a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work by a lot of people, and I am very grateful to everyone on my team, our partners, and supporters in the community who stepped forward to contribute and assist in helping others,” Evans said.
“In my own life’s journey, I have learned that it’s important to know when to start and when to stop as there will always be more to do in this field of work. It’s time for me to take a break to recharge my batteries, and then see how I can contribute to the community in a new way.”
Evans’ departure appeared to catch a number of people by surprise.
“I got the email and I was like, ‘Oh no!’ ” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “But he’s worked so hard. He’s just a tremendous, tremendous human being.”
After a tent city sprang up on the lawn behind the Victoria courthouse in 2015, Evans was instrumental in opening My Place temporary transitional housing on Yates Street in a city-owned former Boys and Girls Club building across from Central Middle School.
“He’s just made tremendous contributions to our community over the years and I wish him all the best,” Helps said. “I’m sad to see him leave the role.”
Kathy Stinson, chief executive officer of the Victoria Cool Aid Society, had a similar assessment.
“I think Don’s done amazing work in our community,” she said. “He’s been a huge supporter and champion of the people that we all serve, people that are disadvantaged and have very few options.
“Don’s done his best to work in their best interests and I think our community’s better for it.”
McKenzie said a countrywide search is already underway to replace Evans. The management team at Our Place will continue to run the organization until a new CEO is found.
Ernie Quantz, who chairs the society’s board, issued a statement expressing appreciation for Evans’ leadership and commitment.
“Don is a true champion of the complex issues of homelessness, and leaves behind many important legacies,” he said.