United Way Greater Toronto

Hands packing cans for foodbank - ACTION

Updated weekly, this is how we’re using your support to take action on the front-lines of our community to provide vital services and support for vulnerable individuals and families in the GTA.

THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

FEDERAL FUNDING:

We’re proud to work with Employment and Social Development Canada and United Way Centraide to distribute the GTA portion of the Emergency Community Support Fund. Applications for funding opened on May 21, and through this partnership we’ll administer $11 million of funding for community organizations serving vulnerable populations during COVID-19. Contracts have also started for 52 emergency programs funded by the Government of Canada's New Horizons for Seniors program.

UNITED WAY EMERGENCY FUNDING:

To date, we’ve invested nearly $1.9 million in one-time, emergency funds to support the urgent needs of 100,000+ vulnerable people through 172 programs. See a list of the funded agencies and programs.

SYSTEMS-LEVEL CHANGE:

The Financial Empowerment Initiative (based on our successful 2018 pilot that helped more than 2,000 low-income households receive a collective $5.9 million in tax rebates) will support 5,000 households in completing their tax returns, including claiming low-income credits and accessing emergency government benefits. The following United Way agencies are involved:

  • West Neighbourhood House, in partnership with Agincourt Community Services Association, Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre, Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre and CICS, will employ 15 full-time tax experts.
  • Social Planning Toronto will make materials available in 10 languages.
  • Prosper Canada will launch an online portal with information on eligibility for federal and provincial benefits as part of a joint effort with United Way Centraide Canada.
  • Findhelp 211 will triage calls from people seeking assistance with taxes and finances.

EMPLOYMENT:

Statistics Canada released some sobering unemployment numbers last week, reporting that nearly 2 million jobs were lost in April alone. Recent polling by EKOS Research indicates job inequality, which was growing wider in Canada long before the pandemic, is only getting worse. In fact, racialized people and newcomers are twice as likely to have lost jobs as other Canadians. As we mobilize our community recovery effort in the weeks and months ahead, we’ll bring you updates on how we’re continuing to work with our agencies to roll out employment support to vulnerable GTA residents.

FUNDING FROM THE NEW HORIZONS FOR SENIORS PROGRAM

We are administering the Peel, Toronto and York allotment of $850,000 from the Government of Canada's New Horizons for Seniors Program. Here are three examples of programming that received funding this week:

  • Afghan Women's Organization Refugee and Immigrant Services (Toronto): This program hosts weekly virtual sharing circles to reduce isolation and provide information about COVID-19. It also provides basic hygiene supplies to isolated senior women.
  • Centre for Immigrant and Community Services (York Region): This program delivers nutritious meals and packaged groceries to isolated Chinese seniors. It also provides meal planning by a qualified dietitian.
  • Caledon Community Services (Peel): This program provides virtual visits and increased supports during home visits, including meals, co-ordination for groceries, medication and cognitive and social programming. Food delivery will also take place in rural areas.

LOCAL PARTNERSHIPS:

The COVID-19 Community Coordination (3C) initiative is a joint partnership between York Region, United Way Greater Toronto, local municipal partners, community organizations and other key stakeholders to support York Region’s most vulnerable residents during COVID-19. The group meets virtually twice weekly to provide primary support and communication, identify key challenges and help implement initiatives that emerge from service partners and community response tables.

RAPID RESPONSE FUNDING

We have approved almost $1 million in rapid response emergency funding in the last 30 days. Here are three examples of initiatives from across the region that received funding in the last week:

  • Centre For Education and Training (Peel): In addition to providing prepared meals for seniors, newcomers, youth and racialized individuals, the agency will also be purchasing much-needed laptops to enable remote support for counselling, information and referrals.
  • Miles Nadal JCC (Toronto): Funding will support community outreach to vulnerable community members, particularly those struggling without mental health support.
  • YouthSpeak Performance Charity (York): Workshops for mental wellness and remote support for young people and their families will be made possible with the new funding.

See a complete list of emergency programs funded by United Way.

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS

In partnership with the City of Toronto, Toronto Police Service and community service providers, we have connected isolated and vulnerable Torontonians to mental health and other crisis services. Eligible clients received a cellphone, data plan or a SIM card free of charge. Cellphones and other resources were provided by TELUS and distributed through United Way-led FOCUS Toronto and the Toronto Mental Health Support Plan.

RECOGNIZING FRONTLINE COMMUNITY HEROES

We’ve teamed up with the City of Toronto to recognize the heroic efforts of our frontline community workers. In May, in partnership with the city, we’ll be posting a series of short profiles of community service workers, and their organizations, who have made extraordinary contributions during the pandemic. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to hear their stories—and please take a moment to share your appreciation for their incredible work.

407 ETR LEADS THE WAY

Our thanks to 407 ETR, the first United Way corporate partner in Canada to commit to a multi-year investment that will help rebuild the social services sector in the GTHA post COVID-19.

Read more about this $4-million investment in United Way’s network of agencies in Durham, Halton, Hamilton, Peel, Toronto and York.

SUPPORT FOR SENIORS

We sent out a call for funding proposals from community agencies this week following a $850,000 investment from the federal government to help support isolated GTA seniors. The application deadline is April 30, and we expect to turn around funding decisions in 24 to 48 hours. This one-time funding opportunity for agencies will support emergency needs of low-income and vulnerable seniors in Peel, Toronto and York Region and offer rapid-response to COVID-19 related issues.

NEW GTA PROGRAMS

This week we distributed funds to 23 new programs that will help address the urgent needs of people and families in the GTA during the crisis. To date, we’ve distributed close to $1 million in funding to more than 70 programs.

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS

We are one of several community organizations that have partnered with the City of Toronto to offer vital mental health services. Residents can call 211 to access support and get connected to primary mental health service partners for direct phone support. Mental health service information is also available at 211toronto.ca. United Way agencies CAFCAN Social Services (Caribbean African Canadian Social Services) and Native Child and Family Services of Toronto are part of this initiative, which will be supporting diverse communities struggling with mental health issues.

FOOD SECURITY

Your support is funding a partnership between Hospitality Workers Training Centre and Second Harvest to distribute 3,000 prepared meals each week to six downtown agencies. These meals are distributed to people experiencing homelessness and street-involved residents, helping to alleviate increased demand on food banks and drop-in services.

EMERGENCY FUNDING

In addition to the funding we’ve already allocated through our community tables, we put out a call on Thursday, April 9, to our 270 community agencies to submit proposals for emergency funding that they can use to meet urgent and emerging needs. We began receiving proposals Monday, April 13, and we are reviewing and sending out funding within 48 hours. This week alone we’ve funded 28 new emergency response programs.

INDIGENOUS SUPPORTS

Your support is funding 18 agencies serving the Indigenous community—and organized under the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC) COVID-19 Collective Response Task Force—to offer remote programming and to deliver meals and food hampers to Indigenous Elders, individuals and families in Toronto.

ACCESS TO FOOD

In a partnership with local government, we’re connecting United Way's network of agencies to emergency response plans. Together, we’re identifying priorities to meet emerging needs in real time, share resources and co-ordinate responses efficiently. It was at these tables that access to food emerged as an immediate priority for our most vulnerable residents. And we have invested additional dollars to provide food hamper delivery to seniors and others who are unable to leave their homes to access food. This was a crucial investment to help close a gap for seniors who do not have access to food and are not already receiving food from another community food program. Learn more about this partnership with the Red Cross and the City of Toronto.

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

Another important need surfaced through our community response tables, new funding has been provided to our agency, Distress Centres of Greater Toronto. This funding will be used to purchase equipment—headsets, remote lines, laptops and conferencing systems—so that the Centre can continue to provide counselling support remotely at a time when the uncertainty of COVID-19 is resulting in widespread anxiety across our community and there is an increased need for mental health support.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING

The federal government announced a $9-million partnership with United Ways and Centraides across Canada to help isolated seniors during the crisis. Our team at United Way Greater Toronto will provide expertise on how best to invest the $900,000 in funding designated for agencies in Peel, Toronto and York Region. Learn more about how we’re flowing the federal government’s funding

LOCAL LOVE IN ACTION

When it comes to facilitating systems-level change, United Way is the leading convener and connector in the sector. Here’s an example of the kind of transformative change your local love makes possible:

REGION-WIDE VOLUNTEER INITIATIVE:

The need for community volunteers has never been greater. That’s why United Way-supported agency Volunteer Toronto has teamed up with several organizations to increase capacity to recruit, screen and train additional volunteers. This team will develop and deliver training resources to volunteer managers and grassroots organizations to safely engage volunteers and adapt program offerings. Expected outcomes include:

  • 10,000: Up to a maximum of 10,000 volunteers will be screened and placed in the GTA to assist with services during the COVID-19 pandemic between May 8 and December 31, 2020.
  • 1,000: non-profit professionals and grassroots leaders will receive training to safely engage volunteers during the crisis.

Our partners—business, government and donors—are coming together in different ways to help the community respond during the crisis.

A powerful partnership

Sometimes it isn’t just about having the resources that people so desperately need; it’s also about ensuring that those resources get from point A to point B. And that was the invaluable contribution of a unique collaboration of United Way supporters CAA and P&G with GlobalMedic. More than 500 hygiene kits were packed by GlobalMedic with P&G-donated contents and delivered by CAA to Indigenous-serving agencies and other agencies working with vulnerable populations across the region.

“Chi-Meegwetch (big thanks) for thinking of our guys. The timing of the donation was perfect. At Na-Me-Res shelter they were just running out of hygiene kits for the residents.”

—Steve Teekens, Executive Director, Na-Me-Res, a United Way agency

Our agencies are hard at work on the frontlines and their staff are often risking their own health and safety to support our most vulnerable citizens. Here are a few recent examples of how your support is allowing our agencies to respond to community needs right now:

Eden Food for Change (EFFC)

EFFC is a United Way agency in Peel that serves people and families facing hunger.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • The agency remains open to give families in need access to good food and essential items during the pandemic. They’re able to do this vital work by implementing additional safety measures and moving from their traditional food distribution model, where clients select their own items, to offering food hampers.

Workers’ Action Centre

Workers’ Action Centre is a United Way-supported agency in Toronto that is committed to improving the lives and working conditions of workers in low-wage and precarious positions.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • The agency, although closed for workshops or drop-ins, has expanded its daily phone line hours to field frequent questions from community about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and other federal and local employment-related supports. They are also continuing to update their website with evolving developments to workers’ rights in Ontario.

Interim Place

Interim Place provides shelter, support, counselling and advocacy to help abused women and their children break the cycle of violence.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • Interim Place has continued to provide its core services and support while taking the necessary health precautions. The agency has kept its two 24/7 crisis phone lines fully operational, including a central intake line, which provides co-ordinated access to housing support.

Parya Trillium Foundation

Parya Trillium Foundation provides services to the Iranian-Canadian community with a special focus on newcomers, youth and seniors.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • The foundation is currently preparing and delivering food hampers to vulnerable residents and transitioning other regular agency services to virtual response. They’re offering phone counselling and information, virtual social media and online training to help seniors and others stay connected, and answering questions about settlement services by phone and through social media in multiple languages.

Newcomer Centre of Peel (NCP)

NCP is a multi-service United Way agency that helps immigrant families achieve successful settlement in Canada.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • NCP is continuing to provide remote assistance for recent immigrants by offering contactless settlement services that new Canadians can access from their own homes.

Alzheimer Society of York Region (ASYR)

ASYR is a United Way agency that assists individuals and families coping with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias across York Region.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • Social workers are now available by phone and email. The agency has also recorded public service announcement videos in various languages to ensure families know how they can get the support they need while dealing with dementia.

North York Seniors Centre

North York Seniors Centre is a United Way agency in the Yonge and highway 401 area. It provides a variety of programs and services connecting seniors to their community and helping them to live safely and independently in their own homes.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • Incredibly dedicated personal support workers at the agency were able to safely support about 120 clients in community and assisted living settings, providing things like daily reminders, meal preparation and bathing.

Blue Door Shelters

Blue Door Shelters is a United Way agency in York Region that provides safe, supportive shelter and services for people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • Blue Door Shelters and York Region have teamed up to create a new isolation site for emergency housing that protects our community’s most vulnerable by allowing them to maintain a safe two-metre social distance.

CMHA Peel Dufferin

CMHA Peel Dufferin is a United Way agency that offers mental health supports to people and families in Peel, Dufferin and Rexdale.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • A team of mental health workers at CMHA Peel Dufferin are ready to respond immediately to mental health needs in their local community through a range of virtual services, including groups, telephone support and, if deemed urgent, community visits.

Caledon Community Services (CCS)

CCS is a multi-service agency providing a wide array of support to local individuals and families in Caledon, Ontario.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • CCS is working hard to continue offering their services while maintaining cleaning and physical distancing measures. An important community support they have adapted in order to meet emerging needs is the sorting and delivery of food hampers to clients. There have been more than 300 pickups in the last two weeks alone.

CHATS - Community & Home Assistance to Seniors

CHATS supports the health, wellness and independence of seniors and caregivers in York Region and South Simcoe through multiple locations.

Because of United Way’s flexible funding made possible by your support:

  • CHATS was able to suspend in-person programs, helping to keep seniors healthy, and ramp up a virtual support network for caregivers as well as provide telephone reassurance calls for elderly clients.
  • Working with other local social service agencies, CHATS was able to create a centralized hub for seniors, including establishing a centralized intake phone hotline for seniors, family members and doctors to access.
  • Demand for their meal program went up by approximately 20 per cent—in an average week, the agency delivers more than 700 meals, which jumped to more than 900 as of March 20 and continues to rise—and they have been successfully meeting that need.
  • It’s helping us provide meals to people experiencing homelessness. 

UPDATE FROM THE FRONTLINES

Screenshot from our latest video conference, showing the four participants' faces.

In our latest webinar, Daniele Zanotti was joined by frontline experts who shared first-hand accounts of how some of our community’s most vulnerable are coping during this crisis. This includes women facing domestic abuse, our Indigenous communities and those experiencing homelessness. We hope you’ll watch our recording of the webinar to learn more about how your generosity makes a difference.

Screenshot of Daniele Zanotti from his most recent video update.

We continue to get lots of questions about how we’re supporting our community’s seniors, many of whom are isolated and vulnerable. In our video update this week, we provide an update on how we're continuing to roll out funds so that the GTA’s elderly don’t get left behind.

Screen capture from webinar, displaying four faces of participants.

Earlier this week we hosted our third webinar on how we’re supporting seniors, many of them isolated, across the GTA. Daniele Zanotti was joined by leaders from United Way-funded organizations CHATS, Bernard Betel Centre and Punjabi Community Health Services to talk about how we’re keeping both emergency and flexible funds flowing.

Video still showing Daniele Zanotti: President and CEO Update.

We’ve got an update on the federal funding announcements we told you about last week. We hope this video will clarify any questions you might have regarding the difference between these one-time, emergency funds, which will be put to very specific use, and the ongoing, flexible funding we continue to provide to our agencies each month.

Video still from webinar, showing faces of four participants.

We recently launched a series of webinars unpacking how your support is making a difference right now. This week Daniele Zanotti, our President & CEO, was joined by Paul Taylor, Executive Director of FoodShare, Kate Greavette, Executive Director of York Region Food Network, and Adaoma Patterson, Manager, Poverty Reduction Initiatives & Community Engagement at Region of Peel. They discussed how we are providing access to nutritious food to the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis.

Next webinar: May 7, 2020
Topic: Support for vulnerable seniors

Video: President and CEO update.

In this week’s video update, Daniele Zanotti, our President & CEO, addresses the double-digit spike in demand for food caused by COVID-19. Find out how, thanks to your ongoing support, United Way’s network of agencies is innovating and adapting to meet this rising need.

Attend our webinar on Thursday, April 23, to hear more.

Four-person video conference screen capture.

We recently launched a series of webinars unpacking how your support is making a difference during the crisis. In the first webinar, Daniele Zanotti, our President & CEO, was joined by a panel of our partners from the City of Toronto and a local community agency. We discussed the ways we are working together to identify gaps and other emerging needs through community response tables. Watch a recording here and watch for an invitation to the next webinar in the series, which we’ll be sending out early next week.

STAY INFORMED
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