Marin County's Spahr Center finances 'not sustainable,' ED announces

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday February 8, 2024
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Joe Tuohy has been leading Marin County's Spahr Center since last year. Photo: Courtesy Spahr Center
Joe Tuohy has been leading Marin County's Spahr Center since last year. Photo: Courtesy Spahr Center

The Spahr Center, which serves Marin County's LGBTQ and HIV communities, has announced its financial footprint is "not sustainable," raising questions about its future.

Executive Director Joe Tuohy, a gay man who took over leadership of the North Bay nonprofit service provider last year, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, made the announcement in an email February 8.

"As you may know, it has been a challenging year for The Spahr Center," the email begins. "Over the last couple of months, we have realized that our financial footprint is not sustainable."

Nonetheless, Tuohy assured clients and supporters of the center in his email that he and his team are "working diligently towards finding a solution." One avenue they are pursuing is assistance from Marin County officials.

"We have been actively engaged with community partners and the County of Marin to determine more sustainable methods for The Spahr Center moving forward," he wrote. "That way we can continue to bring our critical life saving and life sustaining services to the community."

In his email he also addressed what he described as "misinformation in the community about what is going on" with the center, which canceled various services this week amid staff cutbacks.

"There is some misinformation circling around our community that is important to clarify. We are taking a pause in programming this week, but I assure you that at this point in time, The Spahr Center remains open," he stated. "As you can imagine, this is a fluid financial situation, but you will receive regular communication from me throughout this process."

Tuohy, who previously worked at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, took over at the North Bay center after a period of instability in its leadership. He replaced Cindy Myers, Ph.D., a lesbian whose last day was April 28, 2023. She filled in on an interim basis after the departure of Adrian Shanker — after just six months — for a job in the Biden administration, as the B.A.R. previously reported. He, in turn, had replaced Dana Van Gorder, a gay man who held the position from 2019.

Tuohy's announcement came just days after Bill Blackburn, LGBT+ senior programs manager at the center, announced in an email of his own February 4 that he was laid off. The senior program will still be operating, according to Blackburn.

"You will be receiving information about program changes and The Spahr Center soon," he stated. "I was hired at the beginning of the pandemic to help prevent LGBT+ seniors from falling into isolation due to sheltering in place mandates. I've done what I can but truly it takes each of us to empower ourselves to reach out and create community.

"Making a call, sharing a ride, joining a Zoom group, getting together for a cup of tea — all those are a prescription for your health as surely as the Rx we get from our doctor," Blackburn added. "We are a resilient people. We have lived through so much! Our strength has gotten us this far and will carry us onward. You are stronger than you may realize.

"I hope to see you soon. I am not going anywhere," he wrote.

Blackburn did not return a request for comment.

The B.A.R. reached out to Tuohy via phone and email. Tuohy replied February 9 that "The Spahr Center is happy to provide a written statement to answer your questions, if they can be sent in advance."

When asked in what way the footprint is not sustainable, Tuohy replied, "We are not providing financial details at this time, as we are still assessing." He said no layoffs are expected at this time and that the "misinformation" he was referring to was rumors of closure.

"TSC is currently open and operating some of its programs, while others are paused for a week," he stated.

When asked what people can do to help, he stated, "People can learn more about our programs and make donations at"

In January, the center had just moved from Corte Madera to its new location at 1575 Francisco Boulevard, East, in San Rafael.

As the B.A.R. previously reported, a news release stated that the move would increase the center's physical space by approximately 30%, allowing for designated program areas for its food pantry, community support gatherings, case management, harm reduction, and mental health services.

Located in the heart of San Rafael's Canal District, the new building positions the center to better serve the priority population of LGBTQ+ Latino/a youth and families, according to the release.

"This move is part of our strategic plan," Tuohy stated. "Our center is expanding and so we need more space and more staff. We are thrilled for this move and we look forward to sharing our new and improved space with our community."

The center's most recent IRS Form 990, from 2022, shows a deficit of $104,618. There were $2,578,835 in expenses and $2,474,217 in revenue.

The center only had $488,086 in assets, based on its tax filing. Of the revenue, 52.9% came from contributions and 46.8% came from program services. The rest — $148 — was from investment income.

For more information about The Spahr Center, visit

Updated, 2/14/24: This article has been updated with comments from the executive director.

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