2022–2023 Annual Report: Bridging Gaps

So many in our community continue to struggle. With perennial challenges like homelessness, food security and mental health issues sharper and more entrenched, life is not just tough, but tougher than it’s ever been—pandemic included.

We know:

Food Bank icon

In February 2023, the Mississauga Food Bank served 13,850 people, more than any other single month in its history and a 44 per cent increase over February 2022. And in 2022 it distributed 5.2 million pounds of food, four times the 1.3 million pounds it distributed in 2014.

Mental health icon

The demand for adult mental health services in Ontario increased by 47 per cent between 2021 and 2022, while the demand for children and youth services grew by 104 per cent.

Living wage icon

The Peel Poverty Reduction Strategy says an estimated 28,000 families live on ODSP, or $1,228 per month. When a one-bedroom listing is going for close to $3,000 and a living wage is considered $23.15, that is a math problem with no answer.

Shelter icon

This past February, 72 people on average were turned away from a Toronto shelter each night.

Homelessness icon

The rates of mental health issues among people experiencing homelessness have increased during the pandemic. Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of people surveyed through I Count 2021 reported having a mental health issue, compared to 48 per cent in 2018.

And community members aren’t the only ones hurting. Strain on the sector persists, and while the extraordinary contribution of front-line workers has been recognized—now with the province’s Non-profit Week of Appreciation, championed by United Way—we all understand that is no replacement for the public investment necessary to reinforce it so that we are equipped to support our communities now and into the future.

United Way continues to step up, funding and strengthening a crucial network of 300 agencies across 13 service areas so they can chip away at these challenges, providing:

Volunteers outside gardening.

Central food access through initiatives like the Black Creek Humber Summit food portal led by Jane/Finch Centre; the York Region Food Council, housed within York Region Food Network; and Eden Food for Change’s employment training in the culinary arts.

A social worker speaking to a client.

Mental health supports from a variety of programs, including Punjabi Community Health Centre’s SAHARA Family Enhancement service and The 519’s Counselling and Mental Health for Individuals and Families, as well as the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Youth Wellness program in York Region.

A construction worker wearing a yellow helmet.

Meaningful employment for individuals facing barriers: through one of the Toronto Enterprise Fund’s newest employment social enterprises, RAINscape TO for Indigenous youth, or Career Navigator pathways—training, placements and wrap-around supports—with organizations such as Building Up, NPower Canada and the Labour Education Centre.

Volunteers working at a food bank

Vital shelter and homelessness services from agencies like The Neighbourhood Group, Blue Door and Our Place Peel.

A group of volunteers with gift bags for newcomers.

Settlement support for our newest neighbours, like the 720 people placed with host families, thanks to the COSTI Ukrainian Host program, operating in Peel, Toronto and York Region. Or the 5,600 individuals who have been served through the Afghan Resettlement Fund, a partnership between the City of Toronto, Lifeline Afghanistan and United Way.

A phone operator working for 211.

And across it all, Findhelp 211, connecting people in need to the non-emergency government and community services that can support them.

We know we are reaching people. Last year, funding dollars made it possible for United Way Greater Toronto’s network to ensure that:

0Almost 17,000 people accessed healthy and culturally appropriate food across the region.
0More than 46,000 people gained the tools and resources to effectively manage mental health or substance use challenges.
0Nearly 13,800 people received assistance in improving their employment opportunities and financial security.
0Over 20,000 people who are at risk of homelessness, or precariously housed, maintained their housing.
And that is an achievement. For some, help at a moment in time is all that is required; for others, support in dire need can be transformational. But for our society writ large, those programs, services and supports are not enough. Alone, they will not move our community along to where we need to go. Only a reimagining of what community means—what it should provide and what we all can contribute—will do that. And that requires systems change for lasting impact. Right here. Right now. In the communities in which we live.
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