With a heavy heart and a lot of gratitude we say goodbye to Stephen Portman as a member of TAPS’ team. Stephen’s new job at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1518 doesn’t take him too far from the work he was doing here, though, and will provide him with lots of opportunity to continue his fight for workers’ rights.
Stephen has been a key figure in our organization for more than ten years. This small space certainly can’t do justice to the many ways he has helped TAPS grow, from his work developing TAPS’ Employment Standards Legal Advocate position to his tireless efforts to push government to rethink its response to homelessness in our city, and beyond. At so many important junctures in the history of TAPS, Stephen has been there fighting for the rights of the precariously employed and those on income and disability assistance.
I don’t think there is a single job in our organization that Stephen hasn’t performed, including stepping in as Executive Director for a period of time when Kelly Newhook was on leave. I anticipate that for years to come we will continue to have people walking into our office asking for Stephen, because of how passionately he stuck up for them in the past.
We will all miss his sayings—“the tallest poppies get cut!”—and his intense and somewhat puzzling devotion to the song Edelweiss. In the words of Kelly, who spent many, many years in the fight alongside Stephen: “There is no one quite like the Portman! I have always admired his ability to take a complex and often heartbreaking problem, one that would seem truly impossible, and go above and beyond all expectations and solve it. He is never afraid to push the envelope, and TAPS is the better for it. His contributions to TAPS live on and his dedication to social justice and deep compassion for the people he serves continue to inspire!”