In early March, in partnership with Ottawa Public Health, regional public health authorities and dozens of organizations across the community sector, United Way launched an initiative to help support the most vulnerable in response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) affecting our region. This collaboration has enabled local problem solving, prioritization of needs, and coordination of decision-making.
Today, as a result of the input from the more than 70 partners that participate weekly in the United Way-led COVID-19 Community Response table, we are announcing our bolstered support for vulnerable seniors across Ottawa, Prescott-Russell, Lanark County and Renfrew County.
After ongoing conversations with social service agencies, public health authorities, municipalities, elected officials and other funders, United Way has a strong picture of the different challenges vulnerable populations are facing across East Ontario. Indigenous seniors, newcomer and refugees seniors, Francophone seniors, LGBTQ+ seniors, seniors with disabilities, rural and isolated seniors, formerly homeless seniors, and senior caregivers are among the groups that will receive more support to help get them through the challenges of COVID-19 and physical distancing.
Fourteen programs—delivered through senior-serving agencies across East Ontario—will provide basic needs like food and personal protective equipment; wellness checks; social programming in a range of different languages; resources and technology to enhance connectedness and communication; and capacity building to encourage collaboration between agencies, reducing the chances that seniors fall through the cracks.
For seniors living in rural communities who often lack transportation or regular interaction with neighbours, the first challenge that became clear was how physical distancing was affecting their access to food.
“We quickly learned that many of our seniors were not eating,” says Kelly Dumas, Executive Director of Rural Ottawa South Support Services. “They were afraid to go grocery shopping, and they didn’t have anyone to assist them. With the support of United Way, we’re able to provide three nutritious meals each week and basic necessities like bread, and eggs, and milk.”
Hear heartwarming voicemails of thanks from seniors who have received meal deliveries.
United Way has connected these 14 programs serving vulnerable seniors with close to $380,000 in new funding this week, in collaboration with the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, HelpAge Canada and generous United Way donors who have given to our COVID-19 response. This investment adds to the three programs that United Way supported in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 crisis, thanks to the generosity of donors who left legacy gifts to United Way—enabling us to invest close to $25,000 and act quickly in times of crisis.
“While physical distancing is essential to protecting seniors from COVID-19, it risks isolating them from their community,” says the Honorable Deb Schulte, Minister of Seniors. “That is why the Government of Canada is proud to work with United Way Canada to help support the needs of seniors during this difficult time. By using local expertise, this funding will help provide support tailored to the unique, local needs of seniors across the country. As we work together to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus, the government is supporting Canadians every step of the way.”
“I’m proud to be a working member of United Way East Ontario’s table of community partners during COVID-19,” says Marie-France Lalonde, Member of Parliament for Orléans. “I’ve seen and been part of the collaboration at the table that has enabled United Way to invest quickly in the community, making sure seniors are supported during this difficult time. Across levels of government and party lines, we are all engaged in this work to help those most in need through COVID-19.”
The New Horizons for Seniors Program (NHSP) provides grants and contributions for projects that help improve the well-being of seniors and foster their social inclusion. To provide more support for seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada announced flexibility for organizations to use funding received through the NHSP community-based stream to provide immediate and essential services to seniors impacted by COVID-19.