This week we’re talking about Pride, our annual report, an app that helps combat the effects of online hate, and the importance of voting.
Recently, I heard from a local senior who participated in a program we support at The 519. She had spent months alone with no one to talk to. Why such isolation? Partly because pandemic distancing was just coming to an end, but also because she is part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and didn’t feel she had a safe space to be her authentic self.
Then she was connected to the United Way-supported program. She told us she had never felt so welcome before.
“I have so much appreciation for this group. I feel so vulnerable these days and the group is one place I feel I can be myself and be comfortable and safe,” she said. “Connecting with The 519 has meant connecting with myself. I’ve been able to embrace my identity.”
I’m proud that we are able to help provide a space like this. But I’m also frustrated. As much as I would hope that our friends and neighbours who are 2SLGBTQ+ could feel safe and welcome in all parts of our community, I know we’re not there yet. The recent surge in anti-trans hate and homophobia only serves to underline this fact.
That’s why United Way continues to support programs like The 519’s drop-in for seniors that engages them in activities like podcasting and creative writing. And it’s why we fund 360°kids’ shelters, which serve many youth who’ve been forced to leave their family homes after coming out. Why we fund Community Living Toronto’s work improving access to services for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals with an intellectual disability and LOFT Community Services’ support for trans people who are facing mental health and housing challenges.
As Pride month comes to a close, we’ll continue to show our care for community. Tomorrow I’ll be marching, dancing, and celebrating with our staff and friends—some who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ or have family members that do, and others who are allies who want to show up for their colleagues and for residents across the city. What we share though, is an understanding, a feeling that while the Pride parade is a celebration, it is a little bit heavier, a bit more urgent and necessary this year. That it is more important to stand with our neighbours and show them that we have their back.
I hope to see many of you at the parade tomorrow. And I hope each and every one of you will continue to work with us in the months and years ahead to make sure the GTA is a truly welcoming home for all.
Always, and only, thank you.
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto
Things to Know Right Now
Annual and Special Meeting of the Members & Annual Report
Last week, the six leading candidates in Toronto’s mayoral election offered up their visions of Toronto in front of a live audience of 500 Thank you to everyone who joined us this past Thursday at our 2023 Annual and Special Meeting of the Members. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the highlights of the past year—and discuss how we will meet the challenges currently facing our community. If you weren’t able to attend, you can read our 2022-2023 Annual Report. In it, you’ll see how we’re putting your dollars to work across our community, investing in innovative approaches, including social purpose real estate and social impact investment funds, and using our research and advocacy efforts to engage community and influence policy development.
Peel Poverty Summit
Earlier this month, we joined more than 170 community organizations, poverty reduction advocates, people with lived experience, and public sector organizations at the Peel Poverty Summit to discuss the growing scope and complexity of poverty in Peel. The challenges facing the region are clear: 8.6 per cent of Peel’s population lives in poverty, the unemployment rate is 6.4 per cent and among youth, unemployment is at 14.4 per cent. To meet these challenges, we must collaborate at all levels: leveraging private and public resources, community expertise, research and advocacy to build more equitable communities. United Way highlighted nine program and policy interventions that can make a difference in our Building Inclusive Communities report These options will preserve and promote greater social and economic inclusion so everyone can enjoy the benefits of our region’s growth.
Update from the Frontlines
The Path to Good Employment
We’re thrilled to announce the expansion of a unique United Way program designed to connect youth to job opportunities in the insurance industry. We’ve been collaborating with Zurich Canada, the Zurich Foundation and the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals on the pilot program for the past few years, and now, we’ll be managing and expanding it. The Zurich Insurance Pathways Program helps talented youth facing multiple barriers to employment build their insurance knowledge, network, skills and confidence through resume building, up-skilling and hands-on experience. This program is just one of the ways we’re helping young people across the GTA embark on their careers.
Combating Online Hate
Dealing with the effects of online hate is a challenge for so many who use social media, but it can be especially hard for youth. The Anti-Hate Community Leaders Group, in collaboration with United Way-funded Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), are addressing this with the recently released Eradicate Hate app. It includes tools, tutorials, reflection activities, and infographics for youth-focused organizations, educators, parents and young victims of online hate. It also addresses hateful attitudes and beliefs that stem from racist and xenophobic ideologies. We know that systemic racism upholds barriers and unequal access to employment, education and housing, which is why we fund programs and initiatives that seek to close these opportunity gaps, including the Black Youth School Success Initiative, Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services’ Youth Well-Being: Arts, Culture and Wellness program, and Native Child and Family Services’ Aboriginal Youth Employment and Education Program.
Ensuring everyone has an affordable place to live, a good job and access to services will require strong municipal leadership committed to building vibrant and inclusive communities, which is why it is so important for Torontonians to vote in the mayoral election on Monday, June 26. Voter turnout matters and we want residents to have what they need to be engaged in the election and make an informed vote. In addition to co-hosting a mayoral debate with The Toronto Star and Toronto Metropolitan University, we’ve been working closely with community partners to generate nonpartisan election-related resources, so United Way-funded organizations like North York Harvest Food Bank can get out the vote. And recently, our President and CEO Daniele Zanotti penned an op-ed with Daily Bread Food Bank CEO Neil Hetherington, underscoring the importance of voter turnout to make this city a place where everyone can thrive.
Volunteer for United Way’s CN Tower Climb for community
After a three-year hiatus, we are returning to the CN Tower on October 21 and 22 for our signature event, United Way’s ClimbUP. We’re looking for volunteers to help us make this a truly unforgettable experience. It’s an opportunity to support your community while having fun! Sign up to be notified once volunteer registration opens. We’d love to have you join us.