7 min read
14 December 2023

New quality of life report highlights severity of Toronto’s UNMET needs

Tureisha Hamlet, Manager of Public Relations and Corporate Communications

Earlier this year, WoodGreen launched the UNMET Needs Campaign to raise awareness of the pressing issues in Toronto and the essential role of social services in addressing them. Now, new findings from Toronto Foundation are further highlighting the need for investment in the sector to meet the critically unmet needs in our city.

Toronto Foundation’s annual Vital Signs report tracks 10 quality of life indicators in the city, including housing, health, income and wealth, civic engagement and more. Now in its 19th year, the 2023 report, “The Power of Us,” shows that challenges such as increasing unaffordability, hunger and social isolation continue to take a toll on residents’ well-being in the post-pandemic “polycrisis.”

WoodGreen is working to ensure all Torontonians have the support they need to thrive. Continue reading below to learn more about the findings in the Vital Signs report and what we’re doing to help.

Do you want to make a difference in your community? Donate to the UNMET Needs Campaign.

 

Woman holding keychain

Ensuring all Torontonians have a place to call home

Affordable housing continues to be a key issue for Toronto residents.

It is reported that homes in the city have far surpassed the threshold of severe unaffordability, costing about 9.5 times the median income. While this unaffordability affects residents of all income levels, minimum wage workers are especially disadvantaged as it has been found that the hourly minimum wage would need to increase to $33.60 for a single minimum wage worker to afford the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment.

Overcrowding is yet another challenge with 17 per cent of Torontonians living in overcrowded conditions. Among the newcomer population, the concern is even greater with 32 per cent living in overcrowded spaces.

How WoodGreen is making a difference

WoodGreen actively advocates for housing affordability, working with developers and all levels of government to increase the supply of affordable housing. With close to 1,500 units currently owned or managed, we are working to achieve our goal of 3,000 affordable units by 2030.

Man and woman in counselling session

Tackling the mental health crisis

A 2023 survey by the Environics Institute on Employment and Skill found that 37 per cent of Torontonians reported feeling lonely at least three or four days of the week. This rise in loneliness stemming from the pandemic has significantly impacted the health and well-being of many residents.

According to the 2023 Vital Signs report, in the second quarter of 2023, 23 per cent of adults in Toronto reported symptoms consistent with a major depressive disorder and about 19 per cent experienced symptoms consistent with generalized anxiety disorder.

Isolation is just one of many factors that increase the likelihood that someone will face mental health challenges. In addition to financial strain, sexual orientation and disability, age is also associated with poor mental health.

In 2021, 38 per cent of teenage students in Ontario reported fair or poor mental health and 44 per cent of Toronto District School Board secondary students reported feelings of loneliness.

How WoodGreen is making a difference

WoodGreen is committed to providing equitable access to mental health services. Working alongside primary care and health agency partners, our Counselling and Support Services team provides counselling, case management and group support for clients experiencing mental health and substance use challenges. We also offer Walk-In Counselling services, providing almost 1,500 walk-in sessions in 2022.

Addressing the feelings of disconnection that are becoming more common in the city is vital to solving the ongoing mental health crisis. WoodGreen helps foster relationships between community members by offering support groups for caregivers and parents of children with developmental disabilities to connect through their shared experiences in a safe space.

To help Toronto’s youth navigate the difficult path to adulthood, WoodGreen’s Youth Wellness Centre provides one-stop access to recreation, mental health support, and resources for housing and employment, as well as culturally informed support for Black youth through our Rites of Passage program. Last year, the centre had over 1,000 youth attendees.

Staff member at employment centre

Helping Torontonians achieve financial stability

The 2023 Vital Signs report highlights that despite employment increasing by 16 per cent and average hourly wages rising by 19 per cent between 2020 and 2023, many Torontonians continue to experience financial struggles.

The 2023 Environics Institute Survey on Employment and Skill found that 33 per cent of city residents say that their household income is insufficient. More than half of residents fear for their/their family members’ ability to keep or find a stable full-time job, while 33 per cent worry their job may be automated in the future.

How WoodGreen is making a difference

WoodGreen is working to ensure Toronto job seekers are able to achieve their career goals and have the resources they need to thrive in the new world of work. In 2022, we helped over 1,300 job seekers gain employment.

We provide one-on-one employment counselling, targeted employment programs for youth, people with disabilities, newcomers and mature workers, and specialized training in high-demand fields such as plumbing and the skilled trades. We also provide education and employment support for single mothers through Homeward Bound with 100% of program graduates achieving employment last year.

In addition to our employment services, WoodGreen’s Financial Empowerment programs are helping clients achieve their financial goals. Our Income Tax Clinic, for example, helped nearly 3,000 people receive a combined total of $10.44M in tax benefits last year.

Youth and staff playing foosball

Encouraging community participation and social connection

The 2023 Vital Signs report shows that civic engagement and community involvement are on the decline.

Between 2018 and 2022, the volunteer rate in Toronto fell from 37 per cent to 25 per cent. Over the same period, the donation rate fell from 75 per cent to 63 per cent.

Torontonians are not only less involved in their communities, but they are also reporting fewer personal social ties. In 2022, 32 per cent of people reported having six or more close relatives (down from 42 per cent in 2018), and 28 per cent said they have six or more close friends (compared to 37 per cent in 2018). The number of people who feel they always/often have someone to depend on has also decreased, falling from 70 per cent in 2018 to 59 per cent in 2022.

How WoodGreen is making a difference

For social service organizations like WoodGreen, volunteers play a critical role in ensuring our clients receive the support they need. WoodGreen’s Volunteer Services team works to engage community members with opportunities that match their passions and skillsets and enable them to make meaningful contributions to their communities. Last year alone, we received support from 740 volunteers who contributed over 18,000 hours and served more than 19,000 clients.

WoodGreen also provides targeted support for people who have an increased risk of isolation, such as seniors and people living with disabilities, through services like Meals on Wheels, Friendly Visiting and our Transportation Program. Additionally, we offer opportunities for recreation and community connection at programs like the Seniors' Day Program and the Youth Wellness Centre.

Get to know WoodGreen

This is just a glimpse of how WoodGreen is working to provide solutions to our city’s challenges to help create a Toronto where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Interested in learning more? Visit our About Us page or check out our 2023 Annual Impact Report to see the full scope.

Staff and volunteers in UNMET t-shirts with food donations

Join us in supporting our city

The work we do would not be possible without amazing supporters like you. Join us in taking action to meet the unmet needs of Toronto by donating to the UNMET Needs Campaign here.

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