The pandemic no longer feels as urgent of a crisis as it did in March 2020, but our work to combat the chronic issues it exacerbated is far from over.
It’s been three years since COVID-19 hit our region and United Way East Ontario launched efforts to support those most in need: isolated seniors, people living in poverty, equity-seeking groups and other vulnerable people who felt the effects of the pandemic more sharply.
Working closely with frontline agencies, all levels of government, and other partners, we identified the greatest needs, and organized to achieve the greatest impact.
Since March 2020, we’ve focused on seeking out new, innovative approaches to keep the most vulnerable people from falling through the cracks during the toughest times. Grassroots groups formed and new services emerged as a result of collaboration across sectors at the COVID-19 Community Response Table.
These days we continue to see a historic need for social services in our communities, the cost of living keeps rising, frontline workers are burned out and leaving the sector, and charitable giving is down.
What the true end of the pandemic looks like is uncertain, which means we need to think long-term.
Chronic issues that people in our communities have always faced, like poverty and mental health, are much worse than before the pandemic.
Now, we’re focused on taking “what’s worked” during the pandemic and turning it into long-lasting change.
United Way East Ontario is using all the tools in our box—investment, research, advocacy, convening, fundraising—to reimagine what it means to support our communities holistically.
That can look like continued innovation, collaboration and partnerships to address common issues; creating a heightened awareness of social justice issues and the solutions required to address them; increasing our communities’ understanding of the social services sector’s role in supporting those in need; and ensuring integrated and comprehensive services respond to the needs of people – not just any one organization’s mission.
Making mental health services easy to access was an early priority for our COVID-19 Community Response Table, and we knew there was no time to spare. Jennifer is one of the many people who benefited from Counselling Connect.
It’s about treating chronic issues with the urgency they require to build more resilient communities.
In normal times, and through crises, United Way tackles the most complex social issues. But we don’t do it alone. These challenges demand collaboration. We bring people and organizations together—from businesses, non-profits, governments, and more—to solve problems.
In the coming months, this will look like:
- Investing in the Community Services Recovery Fund to strengthen the social services sector by helping charities and non-profits adapt and modernize in the wake of the pandemic. This will ensure service providers have the capacity to handle rising demand and prevent vulnerable people from falling through the cracks.
- Collaborating with the health care sector to strengthen the critical supports available to people in need throughout our region. With mental health, addictions and crisis needs surging, the well-being of seniors and caregivers declining, and people facing more complex and compounding illnesses, now is the time to bolster critical community-based services to relieve the pressure on hospitals and emergency responders and to create a more robust, accessible and integrated system of care.
- Convening with local educators and labour market leaders to ensure support for services that help newcomers to Canada, students, and marginalized populations find work. Creating equitable opportunities is essential to not only addressing capacity issues for non-profit organizations, but also to break the cycle of poverty facing many equity-seeking groups.
And so much more.
A strong social service sector is key to maintaining the social safety net that supports us all, and a healthy future for our communities. United, we can have an even bigger impact and make our communities measurably better.
Let’s make sure vital social services are available for those in our communities who need them most.