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Community PROGRAM Issue Areas

Rexdale Community Hub sign that illustrates list of servies

You must choose one issue area for each program application submitted. The issue area is required for your application.

We understand that a program/initiative may have several objectives and may fit under more than one of the 13 issue areas. Choose the issue that most clearly aligns with the primary focus of your program/initiative. You will be required to report on the results of the program/initiative in relation to the objectives identified in the issue area description, as well as the primary objectives identified by you for the program/initiative.


Program Issue Areas

 

Two women smiling to one another

 

Challenge


Seniors are the fastest growing age group in Canada, and our region is no exception. There were over 765,000 seniors living in Peel, Toronto and York Region as of 2016, representing 14.7% of the region’s overall population. While as a whole seniors experience the lowest poverty rates of any age group in Canada, our region–especially the city of Toronto–has higher rates of seniors living in poverty. There are groups of seniors (e.g., Indigenous, racialized, and immigrant seniors) that are more likely to live in poverty and face other barriers that make them vulnerable, like language barriers or disability.

 

In addition to poverty, social isolation is a serious issue facing seniors and has become dire over the course of the pandemic. There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of senior isolation: living on a low income, living alone, being 80 years old or older, having compromised health, limited access to transportation and lacking contact with family members. Social isolation can lead to less ability to participate in community, poorer health and even an increased risk of mortality. It also puts seniors at increased risk of elder abuse.

 

As the population the most vulnerable to COVID-19 – between 88-93% of deaths from COVID-19 across Peel, Toronto and York public health units were in those aged 60 and over – seniors experienced lockdown measures intensely as regional health units encouraged them to stay home as much as possible. Professionals working with seniors have repeatedly voiced concerns about the impact of lockdown restrictions on seniors who were already isolated prior to the pandemic. In April 2020, the Toronto Seniors Helpline, which fields mental health and financial support calls from seniors in Toronto, noted a 1,000% increase in requests for assistance over the previous year.

 

The pandemic also highlighted the important role of caregivers in the quality of life for many seniors, and the crisis of their fatigue. More than half of caregivers in Ontario have reported that their care responsibilities have become more difficult to manage because of COVID-19 restrictions. Given the growing number of seniors and the human and financial costs of congregate living, developing strategies to help seniors age at home and in community is critical, including supports for the caregivers that make this possible.

 

Our Aim and Approach


We aim to support services and programs that allow low-income seniors to have equal opportunities for healthy aging and good quality of life while aging in community. Our approach is to focus on group and peer initiatives in community or in-home services that are free or low-cost and that complement the basket of services offered through the health care system.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Programs and initiatives seeking to address seniors who face systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Programs and initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure.

Programs/initiatives will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • Seniors experience social connectedness through social support and peer networks;
  • Seniors have access to supports and services with a focus on culturally relevant services;
  • Seniors at home and in the community have improved physical or mental wellbeing;
  • Caregivers (especially those who are seniors themselves) receive supports they need to be able to provide elder care at home;
  • Seniors at risk of elder abuse have improved safety and can live free of violence.

 

A group of people waiting at a bus stop

 

Challenge


Rapid economic, social, and demographic changes have led to growing inequality in Peel, Toronto and York Region.  Many communities across the region do not have equitable access to the resources they need to thrive, and distinct concentrations of poverty exist in some suburban neighbourhoods alongside a history of disinvestment in social service infrastructure.  These neighbourhoods have common and intersecting challenges such as a lack of local economic opportunities, poor walkability and access to space, lower levels of civic engagement and a scarcity of social connections that impact a community’s overall safety and well-being.  It is predominantly racialized people, together with immigrants, and young people, who are bearing the burden of this growing inequality between neighbourhoods.  Low-income neighbourhoods with the highest proportion of racialized groups had a mortality rate from COVID-19 that was three times higher than neighbourhoods with the lowest proportion of racialized groups. 

 

Across the GTA many neighbourhoods are changing rapidly. While many of these changes are positive, low-income residents may not benefit equally from opportunities and this growth can lead to displacement.vi Other neighbourhoods where this growth is absent, continue to face the challenges of poor infrastructure, access to services and amenities essential to quality of life. In both cases, residents need more opportunities to engage with one another to strengthen social capital and sense of belonging, opportunities to influence decisions about local challenges, and opportunities to take real action to improve local service and physical infrastructure.  

 

The pandemic brought pre-existing inequities between neighbourhoods to the fore and required organizations and residents in low-income communities to organize local responses.

 

Our Aim and Approach


United Way aims to create opportunities for residents to influence and participate in building healthy and vibrant communities by encouraging residents and agency partners to work together with other stakeholders to design and implement local solutions to local issues. These initiatives may include work on local economic opportunities, civic engagement, local planning for recovery, physical infrastructure, community safety and social infrastructure. Our approach is to focus on initiatives that involve residents and people with lived experience with a belief that their knowledge and lived experience should inform and lead solutions to local challenges.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Initiatives seeking to address populations that face systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure.

Initiatives will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • Increased resident participation in community-led safety and well-being initiatives in neighbourhoods;  

  • Increased resident participation in neighbourhood development work through identifying key issues, determining neighbourhood priorities, designing local solutions, delivering innovative responses, and community-based interventions; 

  • Strengthened resident and stakeholder influence in local planning and place-making initiatives that seek to improve neighbourhood livability; 

  • Strengthened civic connections where residents work together to accomplish collective goals, create opportunities for volunteerism and contribute to policy or institutional change; 

  • Increased coordination of service and space access in local collaborative multi-service locations; 

  • Inclusion of community members, especially those who face multiple barriers, to be able to actively participate in neighbourhood and civic life.

Applications in this area will need to incorporate at least two of the following core principles of community development:

 

  • Voices of residents with lived experience are included in leadership and decision-making roles;
  • Skill building is provided to ensure emerging local leaders can participate in community development activities;
  • Diverse representation of local stakeholders is included (e.g. residents, grassroots groups, agencies, local business, and government);
  • Using a network level approach to increase planning and service coordination to ensure neighbourhood or system level change.

 

A group of adults playing with their children

 

Challenge


Experience in the early years of a child’s life has a lifelong impact on learning, behaviour and health. Having nurturing, responsive parents during this early part of life as well as good nutrition, and stimulating positive interactions with others, supports children’s development, capacity to learn and behaviour and ability to regulate emotions, later in life.

Not all young children have access to the assets and opportunities they need to reach their potential.  Children growing up in low-income households’ face barriers to accessing early learning experiences they need for success later in life. The GTA is the child poverty capital of Canada with more than one quarter of children living in low-income families. That percentage almost doubles for racialized children, and Indigenous children, with 84% of Indigenous families with children living on low incomes.  The good news is that research has also shown that when children who face barriers are provided with excellent early learning opportunities and parenting support, much, of this disadvantage can be overcome.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified disadvantages, especially for low-income families. Parents and caregivers, but especially mothers, have been under increased stress, from challenges such as job loss or reductions in hours, and increased child care duties. Professionals working with young children from a variety of sectors noted increases in neglect and abuse over the course of the pandemic, prompting advocates to call for early learning programs and parental supports to be a critical part of an inclusive recovery.

 

Our Aim and Approach


United Way aims to close opportunity gaps caused by inequality and poverty by giving children opportunities in their early years that will provide a foundation for success in school and in the community. Our approach is to focus on programs in group or community settings, in particular those that strengthen bonds and interactions between parents/caregivers and children. Programs will be designed to promote social interaction among children ages 0 to 4 years with peers and parents/caregivers.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Programs and initiatives seeking to close opportunity gaps for children who face significant risk of marginalization because of systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Programs and initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure.

Programs/initiatives will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • Children and families receive support in early learning and parenting to provide children with a foundation for success;

  • Children increase readiness, independence and skills for learning, such as communication and social skills;

  • Children receive the early intervention supports needed to thrive in life.

Note: All programs funded by United Way will meet the Province of Ontario’s Child Care and Early Years Act requirements, if applicable, or if exempted, will provide the reasons the Act is not applicable.

 

 

A volunteer putting a box of food in the back of a car

 

Challenge


Most people who experience food insecurity are vulnerable and struggling with other issues like poverty, unemployment or underemployment, lack of affordable housing or disability. This includes many equity-deserving groups, such as women, households led by female lone parents, Indigenous and racialized households, and recent immigrants. Research shows that Black households are twice as likely to be food insecure as white households, indicating structural factors like racism are also determinants of food insecurity. This impacts entire neighbourhoods, shaping where and what kind of food is available, the cost of food, how it is distributed locally, and who is engaged in the food initiatives. These factors make access to affordable and culturally relevant healthy food choices a challenge, particularly in low-income and racialized areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made food insecurity worse. Food banks across the region reported an increased reliance on food banks over the course of the pandemic, with more than ¾ of clients reporting that they began using the food bank as a direct result of the pandemic’s impact on their financial situation. Both cost and access continue to be barriers to food security. Household food costs are expected to increase an average of $700 per family this coming year. The pandemic has also led to restricted access to previously available community food programs with social distancing requirements, leading to fewer options and choices that are culturally relevant.

 

While hunger relief programs do meet a critical, short-term need, they are often limited in their capacity to address the root causes and historically embedded injustices in the local food system or to support the full participation of low-income and racialized populations in their local food system.

 

Our Aim and Approach


We aim to transform communities into places with strong, vibrant and connected local food systems where all residents have access to culturally relevant and healthy food. Our approach is to focus on geographic communities with high food insecurity and to support initiatives that are working in a coordinated way with residents and different stakeholders to create a food system that relieves hunger and promotes long term food security.

 

For the purpose of this grant, a food system is one in which the production, distribution, and consumption of food are integrated for the enhanced economic and social health of a place.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Programs and initiatives seeking to close opportunity gaps for communities and populations that face significant a greater risk of marginalization because of systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities, participation and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Programs and initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and community service infrastructure where the local food system doesn't support the health and well-being of those most impacted.

Programs/initiatives will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • Participants have increased access and availability of nutritious and culturally relevant food;
  • Enhanced resident participation and leadership in community-led food solutions including community gardens, kitchens or markets;
  • Participants gain skills in different aspects of the food system including growing, cooking and nutrition, and employment in food-related services;
  • Increased resident engagement, participation and decision making about local food system and solutions, including the provision of employment opportunities in food initiatives at the neighbourhood/local level;
  • Research, policy and advocacy ideas to address root causes of food insecurity and improving equity in food access;
  • Increased connection, coordination and planning between local community service organizations and other partners (residents, community services, food banks, food growers, distributors, community and commercial kitchens, anchor institutions, food service providers, local government partners) across the food system.

In addition to the general assessment criteria for this grant call, applicants in this area of the program framework will identify other partners and the ways in which the program/initiative is connected to and strengthens the local food system.

 

 

A woman with her head between her hands looking sad

 

Challenge


Gender-based violence is a pervasive violation of human rights. Half of women in Canada over the age of 16 have experienced at least one incident of sexual or physical violence, often by someone they know. Girls, especially Indigenous girls, as young as 13 are targeted and exploited by human trafficking, a multibillion-dollar industry. One in three women endure violence from an intimate partner and every six days a woman is killed by an intimate partner. These statistics reflect only what has been reported. Most cases go unreported for fear of stigma, shame, inaction by authorities and further risk of danger.

 

Living with, or in fear of, violence impacts physical, mental and emotional health and can shatter employment and income security. With nearly 480,000 women across the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area living on low incomes, it also means many are forced into impossible decisions: remaining in violent homes -- often with children -- or living in poverty at the risk of homelessness. We know that children and youth who witness or experience family violence can also be traumatized and have their education and long-term futures affected. This can also perpetuate generational cycles of poverty and abuse.

 

While intimate partner and family violence disproportionately affect women and girls, those facing intersections of discrimination and oppression are at even higher risk. This includes Indigenous peoples, racialized peoples, the 2SLGBTQ community and people living with disabilities. Immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers dealing with language barriers, isolation from loved ones, precarious work or uncertain legal status, are also at higher risk and encounter more challenges when trying to access support, along with seniors and those living in rural areas.

 

The pandemic has had a devasting impact on this issue. While isolation at home was meant to keep us safe and protected from COVID-19, data reveals that family violence – which was already high – has skyrocketed, as evidenced in the sharp increase in call volume experienced by Canada’s Assaulted Women’s Helpline. Isolation at home, combined with health concerns, job loss, and financial stressors has escalated the incidents and severity of violence in the home, all while making access to help, whether formal or informal, more difficult. Service providers describe an increase in situations where lack of access to technology and privacy presented significant barriers to seeking help. Advocates warn that the full impact of this spike in violence will not be known until well after the pandemic is over. Trauma-informed practices that aim to increase safety and control for individuals who have experienced violence will be critical to ensure service providers across the service system meet the needs of their clients.

 

Our Aim and Approach


United Way aims to address the full spectrum of gender-based, intimate partner and family violence through supports that offer a safe place and a clear path ahead for survivors of violence. Our approach is to consider trauma-informed and culturally tailored services connected to a system of wrap-around supports that include immediate safety and crisis intervention, counselling and healing for individuals and groups and opportunities for housing, employment and social connections that lead to empowered lives. Prevention efforts to interrupt harmful social norms will also be included along with collaborative service coordination and advocacy work to affect systemic change and public policy development.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Programs and initiatives seeking to close opportunity gaps for survivors of violence who face a greater risk of marginalization because of systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, racialized peoples, Black peoples, women, 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.

Programs/initiatives will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • Survivors have access to immediate supports including risk assessment, safety planning, and technology supports to increase safety and reduce the risk of violence
  • Survivors have increased stability through connections to housing, education, employment, settlement, legal, financial and/or other wrap-around supports
  • Survivors and witnesses of gender-based, intimate partner and family violence have been connected to mental well-being and counselling supports to heal from their trauma
  • Communities with unequal access to supports receive information in an accessible way to increase individual agency and choice about services and safety
  • Public policies or environments are transformed to increase awareness and safety for survivors and/or those at risk of violence

In addition to addressing the assessment criteria in this grant call, applicants in this area of the program framework will demonstrate a trauma-informed and a feminist and/or intersectional approach to service.

 

 

A bed with hygiene supplies on it

 

Challenge


Individuals and families who experience homelessness are impacted by a mix of structural factors, system failures and individual circumstances. These factors combined with the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) high home and rent costs and record low vacancies have created a crisis for those seeking shelter. Groups at increased risk of homelessness include Indigenous, Black, and racialized peoples, women experiencing intimate-partner violence, youth, refugees, seniors, people with disabilities, and individuals identifying as 2SLGBTQ. And while for many, homelessness may seem like a problem localized to downtown, research shows that nearly half of individuals experiencing homelessness relocated across the Toronto region in order to access better supports in finding a place to live. Shifting from managing homelessness to ending homelessness in the GTA will require a regional approach, including the creation of more supportive housing, adoption of more preventative initiatives, and improved coordination in the delivery of homelessness services. It will also require targeted population-based interventions which provide services appropriate to the distinct needs of different groups which experience homelessness.

 

The pandemic accelerated this need for change. Firstly, public health restrictions greatly increased the visibility of homelessness due to reduced shelter capacity because of social isolation requirements and individuals avoiding the shelter system altogether due to fears of virus transmission in congregate settings, opting instead to sleep rough or in encampments. Service providers were required to modify their services and physical locations rapidly. In all parts of the region, local governments made hotel rooms available address these pressures. Prior to the pandemic, there were close to 4000 individuals making use of regionally-owned shelters a year in Peel. As of July 2021, there were over 6300 individuals using City of Toronto shelters. In 2018, there were more than 230 individuals experiencing homelessness on a given night in York. In spite of lower numbers of refugees in shelters this year, and significant efforts to shift to housing solutions, we expect the Point in Time Counts to be released this fall to indicate consistently high numbers of people living rough and in shelters and hotels.

 

When it comes to affordable housing, the pandemic also increased the housing precarity for renters who had their income disrupted by job loss and layoffs. CMHC data shows that more than 1 in 10 rental units across the Toronto CMA accumulated arrears between October 2019 and October 2020. Advocates are voicing concerns about evictions and the lack of alternative accommodations for those who lose their homes.

 

Our Aim and Approach


We aim to reduce the occurrence and duration of homelessness, prevent homelessness through early intervention, and reduce risks for those who are experiencing homelessness. Our approach is to support best practices in addressing homelessness as well as those that present a clear understanding of populations disproportionately affected by homelessness across Peel, Toronto and York Region. We will support urgent and unmet needs through focused programs that address gaps in specific geographic areas or for particular populations and will increase funding for prevention and diversion-based practices and system solutions to reduce the risk and frequency of homelessness for individuals. Community-level and systems-level solutions to homelessness, such as new cross-sectoral or multi-disciplinary partnerships, and initiatives which enhance service delivery coordination and/or leverage unique opportunities are encouraged.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Programs and initiatives seeking to close opportunity gaps for communities that face a greater risk of homelessness because of systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities, participation and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Programs and initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and homeless system and less community service infrastructure.

United Way is seeking to increase investments in initiatives and programs that propose a pilot, expansion, or improvement of a recognized best practice within homelessness service delivery, such as the following examples from the P & L Odette Charitable Foundation Homelessness Solutions Lab Final Report:

 

  • Post-release Housing First teams for individuals exiting correctional, youth services, and healthcare institutions;
  • Multi-disciplinary approaches and partnerships to provide a deeper level of in-home support for re-housed clients;
  • Home stay programs that support diversion;
  • Eviction prevention programs including landlord engagement;
  • School-based homelessness prevention programs for youth;
  • Culturally appropriate, trauma-informed outreach and housing programs for different population groups.

Programs will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • People experiencing or at-risk of homelessness obtaining and/or maintain housing;
  • Reduced risk, frequency, and duration of homelessness through prevention and diversion;
  • Critical geography and population-based service gaps are addressed to meet the urgent needs of people experiencing homelessness including harm reduction, basic needs, respite and shelter.

In addition to addressing the general assessment criteria in this grant call, applicants in this program framework area will address the following considerations:

 

  • Proposals for initiatives that support the urgent and unmet needs of people experiencing homelessness must provide the context and demonstrated need for the program in response to either a geography-based or population-based service gap;
  • Applicants will provide program design considerations that include a clearly defined target population, an understanding of the specific barriers the population faces in obtaining or maintaining housing; and an appropriate approach to program delivery based on an established or emerging best practice for meeting the specific needs of the population;
  • Proposals must demonstrate how the proposed program will improve housing outcomes for the target population group, citing past successes and evidence where possible.

 

Group of people standing holding laptops

 

Challenge


The changing nature of work is leaving many people behind. Young people, racialized groups, Indigenous people, immigrants, women and people with disabilities have less access to good quality jobs or the training to successfully navigate today’s labour market and have been let down by policies and supports that have not kept pace. There is a critical need for demand-driven training opportunities as well as programs and services to address the needs of those furthest from the labour market.

 

These challenges are not just about the economy. Even before the pandemic, when the economy was strong, people facing multiple barriers to employment were falling behind. For example, despite the economic growth that occurred between 2011 and 2017, 37% of workers in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) were still working in some degree of precarious employment, with racialized women benefiting the least from the economic growth. Job precarity is a systemic contributor to poverty. People with precarious jobs earn about half of what those in stable jobs earn and live in households with 34% lower income. Precarious workers are also more likely to experience ups and down in their incomes, passing on the precarity to other parts of their lives, like housing and food access.

 

The pandemic has made things even more challenging, deeply impacting the labour market, and these impacts disproportionately burden populations who were already facing barriers to employment.

 

  • Youth have experienced higher-than-average unemployment rates for decades, and saw the largest decline in employment during the pandemic, as they are often employed in sectors that were forced to close or operate at reduced capacity during lockdown orders like retail, accommodation and food services. The unemployment rate for youth aged 15-24 in the first quarter of 2021 across the GTA was 19.1%. While these sectors are rebounding in the early stages of the recovery, there is uncertainty over how long the rebound will last, and there are concerns about the scarring effect of this period of unemployment on youth as new labour market entrants during the pandemic.
  • Women, especially racialized and newcomer women, experienced historic declines in participation in the labour market as they were laid off, and many were forced to leave work to take on childcare responsibilities. As with other economic downturns, during the lockdown immigrants were more likely to be laid off or lose their jobs, with newcomer women being particularly hard hit and slower to recover once lockdown orders ceased.
  • Low-wage workers were impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns to a far greater extent than they were during the 2008/2009 recession, with less opportunity to work remotely while also being at a greater risk of losing their jobs permanently to automation.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic was especially difficult for people with disabilities. Many individuals experienced reduction in hours, layoffs or furloughs that decreased their overall household income.

In addition to the disproportionate impacts on specific populations, employment and training services and programs that supported these populations have had to rapidly adapt the ways they delivered service during the pandemic. Many switched to virtual offerings, which increased access for some by reducing geographic barriers and transportation costs but created another barrier for others who lacked the technology to fully participate in online programming. Additionally, the fluctuating labour markets present challenges for employment service providers to continuously adjust their training and programs to each phase of the recovery.

 

Our Aim and Approach


We aim to improve employment opportunities and financial security for low-income people facing multiple barriers. We work to close the gap between industries and employers and talented job seekers by leveraging real labour market opportunities and developing the in-demand skills and training pathways employers are calling for.

 

United Way is consolidating its employment and financial security investments in an Inclusive Employment program grant stream. All currently funded organizations that receive funds from United Way under the following streams will be re-applying for support: CSS Employment & Financial Security Program Grants; YSS Career Navigator ™, YSS netWORKS, and YSS Program Grants; and the Toronto Enterprise Fund.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in demand-driven and employer-focused workforce development programs and initiatives that:

 

  • Seek to close opportunity gaps for communities and individuals that face a greater risk of employment precarity because of systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities, participation and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Are located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure.

Programs will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • Improved employment outcomes, job retention and overall well-being for “job seekers” who are low-income through work-relevant education, skills training, experience, and expanded work-related networks;
  • Increased economic security for residents of low-income neighbourhoods;
  • Improved financial security for individuals that have gained the tools and resources to effectively manage their personal finances and/or navigate financial systems;
  • Improved coordination of employment-related services for job seekers across the continuum of job readiness: from those distant from the labour market, to closer, transitioning and advancing;
  • Employers in growing sectors to find the talent they need and to recruit from a larger and more diverse talent pool;
  • Workplaces are better able to hire and support job seekers with a diversity of skills, experience and social identities, reflecting the diverse population of the GTA.

Applications will demonstrate incorporation of all the following program components, either directly or through agreements with other service providers:

 

  • Employer engagement in design (informed training), implementation, placement, and employment (train to place);
  •  Wrap-around supports, including post-program job-retention supports, transportation, childcare, housing help, support with financial issues;
  • Life skills training; essential skills training where appropriate; and mental wellbeing supports.

Additional resources on the Inclusive Employment Issue area can be found here.

 

 

Group of people smiling gathered around a woman using a monitor

 

Challenge


People with disabilities can face significant limitations on how they choose to live, work, and connect to community. People with a disability have a reduction or loss of physiological ability, whether apparent or not, but there are also numerous barriers that society constructs – systemic discrimination and exclusion, negative attitudes -- that prevent people with disabilities from full participation in our community.

 

There are about 6.2 million Canadians who live with at least one disability, although many have multiple disabilities. Disabilities related to pain, mobility, and mental health are the most common across the lifespan, with youth experiencing more mental health and learning disabilities, and seniors experiencing more physical disabilities. People with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed, and the employment rate decreases steadily as the severity of disability increases. As a result of this, people with disabilities are also much more likely to live in poverty. While regional estimates are not widely available or updated regularly, there are over 550,000 people living with a disability across Peel, Toronto and York. Living in poverty has ripple effects, leaving many people with disabilities very little to live on after paying for housing. In 2020, more than half of food bank clients across the GTA were people with disabilities and in 2018, between a quarter to nearly a third of individuals experiencing homelessness in Peel, Toronto and York reported a physical disability.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic was especially difficult for people with disabilities. Many experienced a reduction in hours, layoffs or furloughs that impacted their overall household income. People with disabilities were also at increased risk of mortality to COVID-19 and were asked to strictly observe lockdown and self-isolation orders. This resulted in high rates of social isolation given limited visits from family, friends, and care workers, with over 80% of people with disabilities reporting an increase in social isolation.

 

Our Aim and Approach


We aim to enable people with disabilities to improve their quality of life, to live independently, and to participate fully in their communities. We will complement and support government and community initiatives that seek to support people with disabilities. Our approach is to emphasis peer and group community-based programs and initiatives. Services to address individual needs will identify how they are meeting service gaps, needs or populations not well-served by existing programs. We also encourage applications for projects to amplify voices of people living with disabilities and identify system-level changes needed to improve policy and practices or test new models of service delivery.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Programs and initiatives seeking to close opportunity gaps for communities that face a greater marginalization because of systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities, participation and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Programs and initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure.

Programs/initiatives will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • People with disabilities experience social connectedness through support and peer networks that enable them to optimize safety and independence
  • People with disabilities gain life skills or other skills to transition to volunteerism or to more focused demand-driven training opportunities or work
  • People with disabilities are able to navigate and access information, financial resources
  • Families and caregivers supporting people with disabilities receive peer support and respite services in order to be able continue to provide the best support possible in community
  • Improved policies and practices to support people living independently in the community

In addition to addressing the general criteria presented in this call for proposals, applicants in this part of the program framework will describe how wrap-around services in areas such as housing, employment, gender-based violence and health promotion will be provided, either directly or through other service providers.

 

 

A man looking out a window

 

Challenge


Mental health challenges and substance use disorders are common, affecting the lives of many people who experience them, as well as the lives of their families and caregivers. Mental health challenges are the leading cause of disability in Canada with one in five Canadians experiencing a mental health or a substance use disorder in any year.

 

Mental health challenges impact people from all walks of life but there are certain groups that are particularly vulnerable: 

  • People living on a low income due to the chronic stress of living without adequate income to meet daily needs.
  • People involved in the criminal justice system: People with mental health challenges are over-represented in the criminal justice system, with 36% of federal offenders requiring psychiatric or psychological follow-up.

Data from 211 indicates that requests for mental health support have consistently been one of the top 5 reasons for contact, across Peel, Toronto and York throughout the pandemic. The Centre for Mental Health and Addictions (CAMH) also reports that visits to its telemental health site increased by 750% between February and April 2020.  Some groups are at greater risk of experiencing long-term mental health challenges related to the pandemic, such as those who are already socially and economically vulnerable. CAMH identifies essential workers, COVID-19 survivors and those with pre-existing mental illness as possibly needing longer term, more intensive interventions. Many advocates are calling on governments to prioritize reducing wait times and funding for more mental health services as a part of the recovery plan.

 

The pandemic has also intensified substance use challenges for many people. More than ¼ of Ontarians reported that they were using substances to cope with the stress and anxiety they were experiencing from the pandemic. In Ontario, there was also a roughly 25% increase in overdose deaths from March to May 2020, compared with the same three-month period last year, with large urban centers like Peel and Toronto accounting for the largest increases. The overdose crisis has intensified during the pandemic with less access to supervised injection sites and a tainted drug supply that has made drug use more dangerous.

 

Our Aim and Approach


We aim to support individuals, families and communities to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Our approach emphasizes group and peer programs that help people develop and maintain the coping and life skills needed to participate fully in the community. In addition, we will invest in community-based counselling interventions that use evidence-based approaches to improve mental health, reduce harm or address addictions/substance use, particularly those that are part of a continuum of services or wrap-around supports to address housing and homelessness, employment, gender-based violence, youth aging out of care or people leaving the criminal justice system. United Way will also support system-level solutions that coordinate services based on geography or population or make a contribution to community well-being through research and public policy.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Programs and services seeking to support individuals, families and communities that face systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Programs and initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure.

Programs/initiatives will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • Participants have improved capacity to cope with mental health and addictions/substance use issues;
  • Participants have increased social supports and peer networks to reduce social isolation and promote healing, resiliency and self-empowerment;
  • Improved system and service coordination across the continuum of health and community-based services to reduce systemic barriers to mental health and addiction/substance use disorder services.

In addition to the general criteria presented in this grant call, an addictions/substance use disorder program application in this issue area of the program framework will demonstrate how the proposed program incorporates a harm reduction approach.

 

 

A group of adults and kids smiling in a school hallway.

 

Challenge


Children in their middle years, from approximately 5 to 12 years old, are in a critical stage of development, where they are exploring their identities, learning new skills and habits, making friendships and forming opinions and attitudes about their communities and the world. While parents and caregivers are still of critical importance, children in their middle years also benefit from positive engagement with their extended families, friends and communities.

Not all children have access to the assets and opportunities they need to navigate this critical phase of life. Children growing up in low-income households have less access to healthy opportunities to explore their identity and build new skills and habits. Children from lower income households have more barriers to participation in after-school activities than children from higher income households. The GTA is the child poverty capital of Canada with more than one quarter of children living in low-income families. That percentage almost doubles for racialized children, and Indigenous children, with 84% of Indigenous families with children living on low incomes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified this disadvantage. The move to on-line learning highlighted the digital divide that is leaving behind children in lower-income families. The Toronto District School Board notes with concern that the pandemic disrupted literacy learning for many of its elementary students. Even more concerning than the impact on learning, is the impact of school closures and social isolation requirements on the emotional development and mental health of children. These impacts have prompted advocates to call for efforts to enhance social interactions for children as an important part of pandemic recovery.

 

Our Aim and Approach


United Way aims to close opportunity gaps caused by inequality and poverty by giving children in their middle years (5 to 12 years) opportunities that will provide a foundation for success in school and in the community. Our approach is to focus on enrichment and out of school activities for children. Programs may also provide support to parents to enable their children’s success.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Programs and initiatives seeking to close opportunity gaps for children who face a greater risk of marginalization because of systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Programs and initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure.

Programs/initiatives will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • Children receive academic enrichment and tutoring to enable success in school;
  • Children build confidence through skills development and positive self-image;
  • Children increase positive social relationships with their peers and adults in their lives;
  • Children benefit from a mentoring relationship with a caring adult and/or youth;
  • Parents/caregivers to improve their understanding of child development and parenting.

Note: All programs funded by United Way will meet the Province of Ontario’s Child Care and Early Years Act requirements, if applicable, or if exempted, will provide the reasons the Act is not applicable.

 

 

A mother and child listening to a woman talk about a document

 

Challenge


Peel, Toronto and York are top destinations for Canada’s immigrant and refugee communities, who have a long history of shaping and often defining the neighbourhoods where they settle. Close to half of the population across the Toronto Census Metropolitan area is made up of immigrants.

 

While many newcomers to Canada do not experience challenges with integration, others continue to face barriers that limit their ability to contribute to the economy and community. Not only does this prevent our region from benefiting fully from their education, skills and work experience, it also poses serious risks to their overall well-being. Newcomers and refugees are at higher risk of experiencing poverty because of barriers to their settlement and integration such as language fluency, racism, discrimination in the labour market and limited social networks. Certain groups of immigrants, such as those without status, are further marginalized because they are ineligible for federally funded settlement supports.

 

Newcomers and refugees were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in a variety of ways. Similar to other economic downturns, during the lockdown immigrants were more likely to be laid off or loose their jobs, with newcomer women being particularly hard hit and being slower to recover once lockdown orders ceased. Immigrants who continued working during the pandemic were at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 given their over representation in essential front-line roles such as nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates. Furthermore, newcomers and refugees are more likely to live on low incomes, in multigenerational households or in overcrowded housing, making it more difficult to adhere to strict stay-at home and social isolation orders. The mental health of newcomers and refugees also showed declines over the course of the pandemic with particular groups experiencing an increase in harassment and hate-motivated assaults, especially Korean, Filipino and Chinese immigrants. In addition to these challenges, the pandemic shut down many settlement services and forced many others to operate virtually, which may have made things more accessible for some, but less so for those with challenges to adopting increased use of technology. Numbers of newcomers to Canada were reduced with immigration restricted during the pandemic. We expect to see a new influx of refugees and immigrants over the coming years as these restrictions are limited.

 

Our Aim and Approach


We aim to enable the social inclusion of immigrants and refugees in our communities and help them reach and develop their full potential. Our approach is to address services and programs needed for the most vulnerable newcomers and temporary residents by addressing gaps in services that are ineligible and/or address gaps in federal or provincial settlement funding.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Programs and initiatives seeking to close opportunity gaps for communities that face a greater risk of marginalization because of systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities, participation and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Programs and initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure.

Programs/initiatives will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • Improved social inclusion of immigrants and refugees through better access to social supports and peer networks;
  • Improved situations and well-being through counselling, peer support and referral to housing, employment and services needed for settlement and integration;
  • Improved knowledge and ability to manage services and systems in the GTA;
  • Increased leadership and employability skills of immigrants and refugees for settlement and integration.

 

A woman smiling as she holds a book open.

 

Challenge


Young people go through significant cognitive, emotional, social, physical and spiritual changes as they move through adolescence and early adulthood. They are developing a sense of identity, a capacity for deeper relationships, increasing independence from parents and gaining skills to navigate challenges to their principles. Young people are also becoming more aware of, and questioning the differences between groups and inequities, with the ability to seek out answers and take action. In order for youth to thrive, they need to be exposed to opportunities to explore and develop skills and assets.

 

However, some youth face multiple barriers to accessing the opportunities to develop skills and assets to successfully navigate their journey from adolescence to adulthood. One group at risk is youth from low-income households, who may experience barriers, including but not limited to: food insecurity, unstable housing, a lack of timely and affordable transportation options, and a lack of personal, community and educational resources. Toronto has the highest rates of low-income among youth for the region, at 27%, compared to Peel (12.8%) and York (12.0%). Low-income rates are higher for particular groups of youth including Indigenous, racialized and immigrant youth who are impacted not just by poverty, but also by colonialism and systemic racism in our education, justice and child welfare systems. These structural factors further widen the opportunity gap for youth in low income households.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown measures have amplified the disadvantages faced by youth in low-income households. With the shift to online learning, youth from low-income households, who already are more likely to experience barriers to learning, were also more likely to experience negative educational impacts from a lack of access to internet and technology. In Toronto, households earning under $50,000 per year had less than one computer for each person in the household, and were more likely to report slower download speeds, both of which present significant challenges to a young person’s engagement in online learning over the last year. In addition to the impact on learning, lockdown measures have also curtailed the ability for youth to engage in meaningful social interactions with peers and caring adults. During the second wave of lockdown measures from February to March 2021, 70% of adolescents in Ontario reported an increase in depression. Youth who live in low-income households have been particularly hard hit, with rates of mental health challenges higher among youth who were financially vulnerable prior to the pandemic. These impacts have prompted advocates to call for efforts to enhance social interactions for young people as an important part of pandemic recovery.

 

Our Aim and Approach


We aim to provide youth (ages 13-24) with the right supports and services that close the opportunity gap and help youth realize their full potential. We will support programs that demonstrate use of best and/or promising practices (e.g., strength-based, trauma-informed) and take a positive youth development approach. Our approach is to focus on programs and targeted supports designed to: support positive interactions and meaningful relationships with peers and adults at home, in school and in the neighbourhood; promote meaningful participation in, and contributions to, community; promote leadership opportunities; encourage and support youth to complete high school; and support youth to develop purpose and aspirations for their futures.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Programs and initiatives seeking to close opportunity gaps for youth that face a greater risk of marginalization because of systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities, participation and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and youth with disabilities.
  • Programs and initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure.

Programs/initiatives will achieve one or more of the following impacts:

 

  • Youth gain skills that enable them to successfully manage their lives;
  • Youth increase community, cultural and peer connections;
  • Youth benefit from a mentoring relationship with a caring adult and/or peer; 
  • Youth develop positive relationships with caring adults in their lives;
  • Youth receive supports to enable success in school;
  • Youth receive tailored supports to help reach self-identified goals and overcome barriers to success;
  • Youth receive supports to navigate and cope with the issue of community violence.
  • Youth and caregivers gain skills, knowledge, and resources to navigate systems and tackle systemic barriers.
  • Youth acquire direct and transferable knowledge, skills, and connections to prepare for the labour market.

 

A man and woman drawing on a whiteboard.

 

Challenge


Given the complex systems and systemic issues that give rise to inequities for particular groups and geographies, United Way works to identify and change the underlying systems at their roots across program framework areas through targeted work on the issues identified in our Systemic Solutions & Research Agenda.

 

Systemic issues require long-term, collaborative solutions aimed at changing entire systems and ways of working (i.e. processes and structures). Efforts to change systems can include the generation of evidence through research or evaluation, knowledge mobilization and awareness raising, developing policy solutions, developing networks and collaboration tables, and advocacy with decision-makers.

 

Our Aim and Approach


Our aim is to support initiatives that create change at the community, sector, institutional and/or public policy level. Initiatives may use community building or community development approaches as a part of the process, but their end goals will focus on broader system, institutional or policy changes.

 

United Way is particularly interested in increasing its investments in the following:

 

  • Initiatives seeking to support individuals, families and communities that face systemic barriers to equal access, opportunities and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination. Examples include Indigenous peoples, Black peoples, racialized peoples, women, the 2SLGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
  • Initiatives located in neighbourhoods and geographies with high concentrations of poverty and limited community service infrastructure.

Research and Public Policy Initiatives (systemic solutions):

 

  • identifying and researching social and/or policy issues  
  • providing policy analysis, development and/or advocacy 
  • strengthening community-based policy activities 
  • engaging constituents (organizations or individuals with lived experience of poverty) in research, policy and advocacy work   
  • presenting policy analysis and solutions to governments and other decision makers 
  • influencing public opinion on an issue related to poverty or inequality

Sector-level Initiatives (systems solutions) will focus on improving or adapting the community service system to meet the needs of people living in poverty or to help people move out of poverty by:

 

  • strengthening collaboration among organizations and networks at the local neighbourhood or population level 
  • improving delivery methods for community services with a focus on system innovation to address new opportunities or emerging needs 
  • improving inter-sectoral coordination such as between government, health and community services