The road out of poverty starts with care

TheStar.com – News.GTA/United Way – Involvement by residents, agencies and businesses is providing jobs and supports.
Oct. 28, 2017.   By

In an effort to stamp out poverty, United Way Toronto and York Region has revamped who and how it funds, positioning itself to work in unison with community partners to bolster its scale and scope.

“Poverty is robbing people of opportunity,” said president and CEO Daniele Zanotti, adding the problem costs Toronto about $5 billion every year. “Ultimately, it undermines everything we stand for, this place where everyone has a chance at a good life.

“United Way is looking at how to harness this local love that people have of their neighbourhoods, how to fight poverty, and giving access to services and supports where people need them.”

The charity has devised multiple solution-based plans as a result of these aspirations. Tiers coalesce to combat issues affecting residents on a regional basis, such as challenges hindering youth completing school, or women grappling with domestic abuse.

United Way Toronto and York Region is pledging to engage 1 million people by 2025 in fighting local poverty, and completing this task means increasing its local presence, Zanotti said.

Last year, it rolled out 62 anchor agencies to redress poverty, providing strengthened frontline services, such as shelters and employment support, he said.

On top of this, program-funding strategies have been set to bring other social-service organizations under the United Way banner.

“Charities and non-profits can apply for us for short-term funding, pilot an idea and build that out,” said Zanotti. “This new funding model is a direct opportunity for us to re-imagine how we are going to address the regional challenge.”

To advance the concept of an inclusive poverty-fighting network, United Way also struck a “groundbreaking” partnership with Metrolinx, the City, and labour unions on the Eglinton Crosstown project, a large light-rail transit system. The community benefit agreement has been established to help young people, a concept endorsed by all three levels of government, Zanotti said.

“This partnership … is ensuring through policy at Queen’s Park that 10 per cent of apprentices hired through Crosstown are young people from our priority neighbourhoods who are facing multiple barriers, youth who might need that first job, or need to complete their education. This will be the new model of public investments.”

The project will cut through five United Way priority neighbourhoods, said Zanotti, which could be a boon for the local economy and likewise benefit those seeking to enter the workforce who might not have the opportunity to do so otherwise.

There are seven community hubs across the city replete with a range of agencies providing sought-after services in one place, Zanotti added.

“They have seen more than 1.5 million people access supports in those communities,” he said. “Not only has our neighbourhood work brought spaces, it’s brought services to the communities, and allowed people to access all kinds of supports, whether that’s an early years program, a food bank, or a job counselling program.”

It’s these spaces that helped spur the galvanization of residents, who have gathered to sort out regional issues themselves.

“We are going to continue that work, expanding our neighbourhood presence, into York region, as well,” said Zanotti.

Another front is ensuring there are jobs available for those having trouble accessing them — part of the solution is utilizing already available spaces so new businesses can take root, said Zanotti.

“People want a way to make ends meet,” he said. “We’ve been working with the City of Toronto on tower renewal, where there may be spaces in existing housing units that can be allocated for community enterprises, local businesses and pop-up markets, where people can get the jobs and economic stability. That really is the driver.”

Last month, the boards of both United Way Toronto and York Region and United Way Peel Region voted unanimously to merge, which could mean an expanded mandate in the future — a Peel members vote had been slated for Oct. 26 (after this story went to press). If the amalgamation passes this stage, it will be official, with an operation date set for April 1, 2018.

“We know Peel has a number of neighbourhoods that have experienced rapid population growth and deepening poverty,” Zanotti said. “In fact, poverty in the 905 is growing at a faster clip than the provincial and national average.”

To curb this would mean working with community partners in Peel to map out what people require most, he said.

“At its core, United Way Peel has been driving this fight against poverty in its community already. The merger gives us an opportunity now to scale that and go even deeper.”

United Way Toronto and York Region has a campaign goal of $103 million this year, but to serve everyone, regardless of class, requires effort and heart from many sides.

“We’re going to have to care our way out of this, and that means getting residents, citizens, agencies and businesses to roll up their sleeves and get involved.”

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/unitedway/2017/10/28/the-road-out-of-poverty-starts-with-care.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *