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Bringing people from all walks of life together to build a better region
It takes the whole community working together to change social conditions. No one organization, no one level of government, can solve systemic problems. But by working in partnership with others and by mobilizing people and resources, we can address the root causes of our region’s shared challenges. We’re working with our frontline agencies, community partners, the private sector and all levels of government to change the conditions of not just individuals but entire neighbourhoods — and that makes a positive impact on our region as a whole. United Way York Region has developed a partnership approach that aims to address the root causes of social problems by working to change not only individuals, but whole communities. Our work is based on a simple but profound belief that what unites us is ultimately far more powerful than what divides us.
Human Services Planning Board
As a member of York Region’s Human Services Planning Board (HSPB-YR), a body created in 2010 to strengthen the capacity of the human services sector, United Way is helping to address the growing issue of low and moderate income residents who are struggling to make ends meet. The board is focusing its collective attention and resources on the alarming increase in the number of working poor across our region. Together, members of the panel created Making Ends Meet, a call to action to address the economic vulnerability throughout the region. In May 2012, HSPB-YR released Making Ends Meet Baseline Measures: Turning the Curve to tackle the widening gap between household income and the high cost of living in the region. This research was endorsed by York Region Council and is an example of United Way’s ongoing commitment to address what it has identified as three community priorities: helping our kids be all they can be, moving people from poverty to possibility and creating strong people and healthy communities.
Local Immigration Partnership
The Local Immigration Partnership was launched by the federal government to strengthen the role of York Region and local communities to serve and integrate immigrants. As a result of this initiative, York Region Council created the Community Partnership Council – a body comprised of individuals representing a variety of community stakeholder groups who bring a wide range of professional and personal experience. United Way York Region is pleased to have representation on this board and is working in collaboration with the Region to identify strategic directions for improving immigration services. In partnership with other stakeholders, United Way will work to improve access to and coordination of immigrant integration services (settlement services, language training and labour market integration); improve labour market outcomes for immigrants; and strengthen regional awareness and capacity to successfully integrate immigrants. In 2011, the partnership released “Leading Change for a Stronger Community – Community Partnership Council Collective Action Plan 2012-2015”, a blueprint for action in successful integration of newcomers.
United Way York Region (UWYR) and York University (YorkU) have a long-standing community-university partnership, looking for innovative ways to bring academic research to help address community problems. In 2011, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) awarded YorkU and UWYR $93,000 to further develop academic and community partnerships through community based knowledge brokering with a focus on the impact of social and economic conditions on health of residents – the social determinants of health. To date, the partnership has been catalytic on a number of initiatives: involving students from the Faculty of Environmental Studies and Liberal Arts and Professional Studies in projects that support the development of a local food charter; and partnering with the CITY Institute in a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded major collaborative research initiative on Global Suburbanisms: Governance Land and Infrastructure in the 21st Century. The partnership with York U’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit has also been instrumental in connecting leading minds from the Schulich School of Business to emerging social innovation and entrepreneurs across the region, and engaging in evaluation of our Meeting House community dialogues.
Between February and June 2013, UWYR and YorkU organized Responding to Youth Homelessness: A Systems Approach, a learning series about innovative and effective responses to youth homelessness. This learning series is made possible by a UWYR partnership with YorkU’s Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Unit funded through a Public Outreach Grant, SSHRC; the Canadian Homelessness Research Network and Eva’s National Initiatives Program.
The release of Leaving Home: Youth Homelessness in York Region in November, 2014 by United Way York Region in partnership with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York University is the culmination of a community engagement process, including the earlier 2013 learning series. The report includes findings from interviews with 60 young people who were accessing homelessness services in York Region and a number of service providers. The report is intended to raise awareness of youth homelessness in York Region and potential solutions, and inspire progressive change with a major focus on prevention. UWYR and other community partners recognize the need for deeper insight into the conditions that produce and sustain youth homelessness and a better understanding of the supports that young people access in York Region, and where early intervention and preventative measures need to be in place.
Federal Homelessness Partnership Strategy (HPS)
In the fall of 2011, United Way initiated discussions with The Regional Municipality of York to explore the potential of acting as the Community Entity for the federal government’s Homelessness Partnership Strategy, a strategy established in 1999 by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), now currently known as Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
In July 2012, United Way formally assumed the Community Entity role and accepted the responsibility of investing in and monitoring funded programs. Throughout the year, United Way has been acting as a conduit, monitoring the impact of funded projects in addressing the community on homelessness in consultation with people living in poverty, service providers, business and government, and has been working with such government funded programs as Community Legal Clinic of York Region, John Howard Society of York Region, Pathways for Children, Youth and Families, Salvation Army Sutton Youth Shelter, Women’s Centre of York Region, York Region Food Network.
In partnership with the federal government, United Way has administered over half a million dollars in these programs, which support over 500 of the region’s most vulnerable residents.