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Maitri director resigns after 6 months

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Michael Sorensen
Michael Sorensen  

The executive director of Maitri, a San Francisco nonprofit that provides hospice services to people with AIDS, has resigned after only six months on the job, the agency has announced.

Michael Sorensen, who couldn't be reached for comment, is leaving "for personal reasons," a June 10 Maitri news release said. Sorensen replaced former Maitri Executive Director Michael Smithwick on December 19, after Smithwick retired.

"I would like to acknowledge Michael for the contributions he has made as Maitri's executive director, culminating in a very successful Bliss annual gala in May," stated Maitri board Chair Michael Niemeyer. "I wish Michael all the best in his future endeavors."

Maitri will appoint an interim executive director by June 16 "to assure a seamless transition, as the board embarks on a search for a permanent replacement," the nonprofit said. "... The highest levels of residential care services and patient care that Maitri provides will remain unaffected."

The sold-out Bliss gala, which marked Maitri's 30th anniversary, grossed more than $245,000 and "was the most successful gala in the organization's history," the group said.

The agency is nearly finished successfully negotiating its two main government contracts, which account for almost $1.7 million of its $2.9 million budget and will span at least three years.

The contracts "will help ensure that Maitri can make hospice and respite care available to those disabled by AIDS," the group said.

One of the agency's most pressing concerns has been finding a tenant for its 4,000 square foot ground floor commercial space. 

The space has been mired in controversy since Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which operates a chain of Out of the Closet thrift shops, settled an eviction lawsuit with Maitri over its rejection of a rent increase in 2015.

Maitri then endured harsh criticism last year when it announced plans to lease the space to a sex offender rehab company, without giving nearby residents a heads up. That deal fell apart after a neighborhood uproar.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, whose District 8 includes Maitri, said earlier this year that he'd like to open what he's called a "respite center," possibly in Maitri's vacant commercial space, that would welcome homeless people off the streets during the day. However, there's no funding for such a center.

Mayor Ed Lee has targeted money for more Navigation Centers, and Sheehy told the B.A.R. this week he is pushing for one to be designated specifically for homeless youth. He has yet to locate a site for such a facility, whether in his district or elsewhere in the city.

Before joining Maitri, Sorensen had most recently served as the executive director of health centers at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. He'd also served as director of development and communications at the Cascade AIDS Project, among other work.


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