We’ve always been dedicated to moving the needle on the biggest issues, using evidence-based research to understand the problem and guide our ambitious advocacy agenda. Over the past year:
We’ve placed equity at the centre of our pandemic response and as we focus on the road ahead. Always a part of our DNA and foundational to our approach of supporting the people and places in greatest need, our organizational commitment to equity, now with a renewed focus, is expressed in our vision and priorities, and anchored in a comprehensive Equity and Reconciliation Action Plan. We know that poverty and discrimination are intertwined and fighting local poverty means dismantling systemic racism. This plan keeps us accountable in taking clear and measurable steps, starting with our internal culture and radiating out to every aspect of our work, from grant making and data collection to advocacy and communications.
In 2020-21, here's what that work included: United Way’s participation at the Premier’s Council on Equality of Opportunity, where we’ve had the opportunity to influence provincial policy; supporting Indigenous social services' emergency response efforts by embedding increased funding for Indigenous-led organizations throughout all grant streams; building relationships with the Network for Advancing Black Communities and others to develop shared understanding and practice in enabling Black-led, Black-focused and Black-mandated organizations; and our passionate advocacy for targeted strategies to assist the racialized and low-income neighbourhoods that place-based data confirmed as the hardest hit by COVID-19. Case in point: Working with community partners like the Rexdale Community Health Centre and Health Commons Solutions Lab, we didn’t just call for an innovative approach; we piloted it. And the model — incorporating outreach through community ambassadors, local testing and wraparound supports — first used to encourage testing to curb the spread of the virus, was picked up by the province and extended to include the rollout of the vaccine in hot spots. In the neighbourhoods of Black Creek and Humber Summit, this kind of community partnership helped vaccinate more than 100,000 people locally.
This focus will continue, championed by dedicated funds like the Barrett Building Opportunities Greater Toronto Fund, a catalyzing gift to seed and drive long-term change for equity-seeking communities across the GTA.
“United Way was one of the first funders who understood what we were doing early on and stuck with us in the process of it all,” says Gessesse. “They understand the unique barriers that Black and Indigenous youth face and are willing to put their dollars behind it.”
—Agapi Gessesse, Executive Director, CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals
Toronto Star, Black Resilience table tackles inequity through collaboration November 21, 2020
“Introducing Ogitchidaa Manido or Warrior Spirit. The newest addition to our Mobile Healing Unit. With this add @anishnawbe staff are increasing daily #COVID19 testing, flu vaccines, primary health care & making it more accessible for our #Indigenous community in #Toronto.”
—Anishnawbe Health @anishnawbe
“That ability to take a regional approach and the incredibly large audience that [United Way] have has created huge opportunities for us to communicate, to create understanding and to build empathy for the issues that we’re dealing with.”
—Mary-Anne Bédard, General Manager, Shelter, Support & Housing Administration, City of Toronto
Toronto Star, Even harder to be homeless November 21, 2020
“When #covid19 hit, @BCCFarm put together an emergency food program to serve our community, which was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. We’re also one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Toronto, facing numerous systemic barriers such as underemployment and over policing.”
Headway on Homelessness
United Way Greater Toronto supported a crucial shift on homelessness, working with the City of Toronto to convene a task force that includes leaders from the Indigenous and Black communities. Our COVID-19 Interim Shelter Recovery Strategy Report identifies short-term practices to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and leverage more permanent solutions that move us from managing homelessness to ending it. Together with community partner Maytree, we also endorsed the city’s COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Recovery Response Plan. More broadly, we’ve continued the good work of the National Housing Collaborative, which resulted in several policy wins, including implementation of the portable housing benefit in Peel. — Now operating as the Canadian Housing Policy Roundtable, this pan-Canadian coalition recently shared three policy proposals focused on affordability, homelessness and evictions with the federal government.
People using Toronto’s shelter system for more than six months.
Precarious Employment and Emergency Leave
After producing three Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario reports — helping to bring precarious employment to the public eye and political agenda — and advocating for progressive public policy for a decade, we know this issue better than anyone. Nothing is more emblematic of job precarity than the issue of paid sick days, which has become a matter of life and death for front-line workers during this pandemic. Continuing to ring the bell through the United Way–funded Ontario for All coalition — which builds capacity within the sector for advocacy and mobilization on key issues — we brought almost 200 United Ways and agencies from across the province together to issue a call to action. And we formally endorsed municipal calls from Brampton, Mississauga and Toronto, while also successfully pushing to expand the notion of sick leave to emergency leave, so that workers can take the time they need to care for ill loved ones, as well.
Workers in precarious employment who are paid if they miss work.