The head of Portland Street Response announced her resignation to staff Wednesday morning.
Robyn Burek has led the alternative first response program since its inception in 2020. The program, which sends unarmed mental health workers to behavioral health emergencies instead of police officers, operates within Portland Fire & Rescue. Willamette Week first reported Burek’s announcement Wednesday.
According to staff, Burek has accepted a position in the City Auditor’s office and will leave Portland Street Response next month. The Fire Bureau has not yet identified who will replace her.
“I want to thank Robyn Burek for her service and dedication to assisting those in crisis,” said interim Fire Chief Ryan Gillespie. “I am dedicated to working with Robyn and her team to find a successor who will help us continue the important work of PSR.”
Burek did not respond to OPB’s request for comment.
Burek’s announcement comes amid a moment of uncertainty for the city program. Portland Street Response just entered its second year operating citywide after seeing measured success the first year. But the program remains understaffed and lacks a plan to secure long term funding within City Hall. At the same time, recent changes to Portland Street Response’s internal policies – like a ban on distributing tents or food to clients and a mandate for staff to assist in clearing homeless encampments – have reportedly hurt employee morale.
The program was introduced by former City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in 2020, and it was Hardesty who selected Burek to serve as its first program manager. City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez unseated Hardesty in November, and now oversees Portland Street Response. Gonzalez has at times been critical of Portland Street Response’s work, highlighted conflicts with firefighters and is responsible for some of the recent controversial policy changes to the program.
In an interview with OPB last week, Gonzalez said his priority is to “provide stabilization and some organizational structure for Portland Street Response” while in the role.
Gonzalez did not directly address Burek’s decision to step down in an email to OPB, but expressed his support in the Fire Bureau.
“We have full confidence in Chief Gillespie’s leadership to select the next PSR manager who will ensure program health and compliance with City policies and procedures,” he wrote.
This story may be updated.