In light of the election and upcoming throne speech, we would like to highlight some of WoodGreen’s policy goals and programs that we feel should be prioritized by the provincial government. Specifically, WoodGreen would like to see support in the following sectors: affordable housing, women’s social and financial empowerment, and community care services.
Although the budget will be re-tabled, commitments made before the election, such as the $100 million over three years to community support services, will likely remain in the budget with a few minor changes. One expected change is the rates of Ontario Disability Support Payments (ODSP) as the premier has said publicly that the rates will increase.
Below, we have included information on the top 3 sectors WoodGreen is seeking support in, as well as what we are currently doing to advance development in these areas.
Housing is a key component, and often the first step to improving social determinants of health in vulnerable populations. Affordable housing acts as a foundation and allows for advancement in a variety of other areas such as education, employment, child care, and personal support.
WoodGreen is the second largest non-municipal non-profit housing provider. We manage close to 1,000 units (such as the one on Queen St East, pictured below) and plan to increase our portfolio by an additional 2,000 units. Unfortunately, WoodGreen, along with other non-profit housing providers, lacks predictable and readily available upfront capital that is needed to create affordable housing development business plans attractive to government and private partners.
That is why we are advocating for the federal government to work with non-profit providers and ensure they have access to upfront capital to launch their development plans and build affordable and supportive housing. Once there is access to capital for affordable development, the Ontario government must step up to provide land where affordable housing can be built.
45% of individuals experiencing homelessness in Toronto are women and youth. Often, they are fleeing unsafe conditions such as domestic violence and abuse. It is especially difficult for female-led single-parent families to combat the obstacles that come with unstable housing. Poor housing quality also negatively impacts the lives of children and adolescents, harming early development.
WoodGreen’s Homeward Bound program is a multi-service support package that includes education, housing, childcare and access to employment supports for vulnerable women and families. The Homeward Bound program leads unhoused women and families out of homelessness, poverty and social assistance.
Reports have found that 80 percent of Homeward Bound graduates complete all of the milestones of the program, achieving a college degree and employment and that 94 percent of graduates reported being stably housed. The program has increased the quality of life for many of our clients, as noted through the following testimonial from a Homeward Bound graduate:
“Homeward Bound has changed my outlook on life and I have my optimism, drive, and energy back . . . A stable home environment for myself and my children will return the joy of mealtimes, game nights and entertaining together; and a much-needed sense of stability that has been sorely lacking for the past few years. An opportunity to further my education and provide financial security for my family has been a lofty goal but is now on the horizon. And, to find new friends within our cohort that will travel along a similar path is comforting. They say it's mental fortitude that sets you apart from the crowd . . . Somewhere I lost that. And now, it’s found. I’ve moved mountains to achieve my goals in the past and I’m ready, willing and able to do it again—smarter, wiser and more efficiently.”
– (Homeward Bound Participant)
These outcomes and client experiences are noteworthy but the expense of running this program is extremely demanding. We have the opportunity to expand our model to impact more lives, but require financial assistance from the government.
We ask that the elected government financially support the Homeward Bound program so it may continue to help vulnerable women. An area that could be supported is the tuition fees, currently covered by donor funds. We also ask that the elected government consider adopting the program as a model, inside a person-centred social assistance system.
Community Care Services
A strong community care sector is essential to sustainability in our health system. According to the 2021 pre-budget statement made by The Ontario Community Support Association (OSCA), 91 percent of seniors want to stay living healthy at home for as long as possible, but current trends signal a different trajectory for seniors in the future. We appreciate the commitments made in the proposed budget before the election, but the community care services require a long-term plan. Investment in the sector is crucial, so organizations like WoodGreen, can continue to expand and run programs and services that improve the physical, social and mental well-being of clients and ensure that they can live independently for as long as possible.
For a better insight into the budget proposed before the election, check out this statement on our website that highlights what is currently in place.
Non-profit agencies continue to struggle with staff retention and recruitment of staff such as Personal Support Workers (PSWs).
WoodGreen is asking the province to invest further into community care service organizations so they can pay workers the wages they deserve. We also ask the elected government to focus on a staff retention strategy and develop a human resource plan to increase the health and community staffing workforce.
We continue to advocate for support in these areas as they are critical to the well-being of vulnerable populations. WoodGreen’s programs have a proven track record of providing opportunities to various demographics, but acquiring ongoing funding for many of them continues to be a challenge. With additional support from the provincial government, we can expand our programs that serve youth, provide housing services, support seniors to age well at home, and much more, ultimately changing the lives of many in Toronto.