We’re talking about the housing crisis, our community campaign and funding for equity-deserving agencies.
A few weeks ago, during Nuit Blanche, I made my way to an underground parking lot in downtown Toronto. Thousands of people had come out to see thought-provoking art installations across the city, and I was no different. Because in this parking lot was OpenHouse, a pop-up United Way created to inform and inspire.
The concept of OpenHouse is simple: we built a one-bedroom apartment in a 150-square-foot parking spot. Why? Because that’s what $250 a month will get you. And that’s all many of our neighbours can afford. In fact, minimum wage would have to double in order for someone living on a low income to afford the average rent of a Toronto apartment.
Even knowing all this, I was shocked to see the apartment in person—so small, so inadequate to the needs of one person, much less a family. Other visitors were also grappling with this stark reality. And many were seeing their own experiences represented: “This is my life. This is what I can afford. I will never be able to own a home of my own.”
But OpenHouse isn’t just about shining a light on this crisis that affects so many of us. It’s also about addressing it, together. As people continued to explore the installation, they learned about United Way’s six policy recommendations to create safe, affordable and accessible housing—and how they could be a part of making them a reality.
Since that night, I’ve heard from many who were deeply impacted by the installation and inspired to take action in ways big and small. You can join them. Watch our video linked above to see OpenHouse for yourself and then learn more about our recommendations and how you can be part of bringing an end to this crisis.
Because we need you, too. United Way has been in this fight for decades, but we can’t win it alone. We need local government, the private sector and people like you to take action. It will take all of us, working together, to build a future where everyone has access to housing.
Always, and only, thank you.
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto
Things to Know Right Now
Anchor Agency Funding for Equity-Deserving Agencies
United Way is proud to invest $2,125,000 in neighbourhoods in Peel and York that are experiencing deepening poverty, as well as in agencies led by and serving Indigenous, Black and other equity-deserving groups. This long-term flexible funding, made possible by donors like you, will equip them to meet evolving needs and build long-term organizational strength. “Through this investment, United Way Greater Toronto is putting resources behind a truth Indigenous communities have long known: That we hold the solutions to the challenges facing our communities,” says Jairus Skye, Executive Director of The Indigenous Network. “Access to stable, flexible funding ensures we can direct resources to where they are needed most and set our communities up to thrive, now and into the future.”
This latest round of funding builds on our anchor funding renewal announced in February and the transformational gift the Barret Family Foundation made in 2021, which helped us scale our support for organizations and programs serving Indigenous, Black and other racialized populations impacted by poverty.
2023 Community Campaign
On Sept. 27, United Way Greater Toronto launched our 2023 Community Campaign. We have an ambitious goal this year: raise more than $110 million for our community. Every dollar will ensure we can continue to meet immediate needs—food, shelter, mental health—and strengthen local neighbourhoods. Our 2023 Community Campaign Cabinet, led by Dave Leonard, and 2023 Major Individual Giving Cabinet are leading the charge, leveraging their expertise, networks and dedication to ensure we meet our goal. But we need you too. Join us in the fight against poverty by making a gift, supporting your workplace campaign or by sharing this newsletter with someone you know.
Social Medicine Initiative
Amid housing and affordability crises, 51 residents will soon be welcomed to their new homes at the Social Medicine Initiative (SMI)—a partnership between United Way Greater Toronto, University Health Network and the City of Toronto . Set to open this winter in Parkdale, SMI will be home to people experiencing homelessness who also have high health needs. United Way’s network of community agencies will ensure that residents have access to services and programs that meet their needs, including supporting their physical and mental health, food security, employment, social connection and more.
Update from the Frontlines
Finch West Redevelopment
It has become a familiar story across the GTA: revitalization and public infrastructure investments lead to neighbourhood growth—and too often, deepened inequities and the exclusion of low-income residents, small businesses and community organizations. The Local’s latest series, which is co-sponsored by United Way and the Metcalf Foundation, will focus on the impact the Finch West LRT is having on the neighbourhood, from examining the fight for community benefits with transit projects to how transit projects affect redevelopments through rising rents and changing demographics. As the GTA undergoes rapid growth, we believe the solutions to our communities’ greatest challenges can be found in our neighbourhoods and the residents who call them home. We’re proud to have supported the Finch West Issue by The Local—one way we are empowering residents to shape the story of their communities as we work to strengthen neighbourhoods and build truly inclusive communities across the GTA. Read the issue.
One Week Left to Register for ClimbUP!
Just days after his 99th birthday, Walter will be joining United Way’s ClimbUP, conquering the 1,776 steps of the CN Tower for the third time! You can join him. Step up for your community and register for the climb today. If you can’t join us for ClimbUP, show your support for Walter by sponsoring his climb.
Leading Social Justice Collective
United Way Greater Toronto and the University of Toronto’s School of Cities are excited to welcome applicants to the Leading Social Justice Collective. The innovative leadership development program is for leaders from the public, private and community sectors who are committed to tackling systemic social justice issues in the GTA. In a series of dynamic online seminars and coaching sessions between March and June 2024, participants will work together on social justice challenges within their communities and organizations. Applications are due by Nov. 20 . Know anyone who would be a good fit for this program? Please share with your network!