Looking back and looking forward
As we move into 2021, we reflect on a year unlike any other.
This year started off with an exciting announcement about a new model of integrated care that will change the way we deliver health care in Ontario. In December 2019, the Honourable Christine Elliott formally announced East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) as one of the first 24 Ontario Health Teams (OHTs) in the province, better connecting patients and providers in their communities to improve patient outcomes. WoodGreen is one of six anchor partners that make up this complex, multi-stakeholder system.
Other major projects moved forward, including adding more affordable housing to Toronto’s stock with our new site at 1117 Gerrard Street East. We welcomed AIS (Accommodation, Information and Support), another Toronto supportive housing provider, into the WoodGreen family. This added 64 units at four sites to WoodGreen’s portfolio of housing.
Of course, COVID-19 changed everything for our organization and the people we serve.
Many of our clients are seniors, isolated and experiencing poverty, and the effects of the pandemic hit them hardest. Calls to our Toronto Seniors Help Line spiked up to 10 times more than our normal volume and our team worked to ensure those most vulnerable in our community had everything they needed.
There are countless examples of our amazing teams coming together, going above and beyond to ensure the safety of our clients, including WoodGreen staff personally packing and delivering meals to thousands of people in need. Teams like Homeward Bound team quickly moved to remote service delivery so that many participants were able to successfully finish college and other program requirements, even with no child care available to them.
As our heroic teams ensured the safety of our clients, both virtually and in person, WoodGreen staff across the entire organization sprang into action to make sure we could continue to provide access the lifesaving services. The WoodGreen Foundation issued a #COVID19commitment challenge, raising $400K which allowed us to equip clients with smart phones, tablets, computers and data plans to provide virtual bridges to the outside. Our IT team worked around the clock to ensure all staff could do their jobs when the office was shut down.
The pandemic pulled back the curtain to many inequities in our city. The Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee at WoodGreen worked to further our organizational commitment to fight anti-black racism. The committee has undertaken the important task of leading difficult conversations, organizing expert-led training for our staff and working to make WoodGreen an even more diverse, inclusive and safe workplace that is free from all forms of discrimination.
Throughout 2020, WoodGreen worked with the Toronto Board of Trade to investigate new and innovative ways to address the housing crisis in Toronto, releasing Housing a Generation of Essential Workers in early 2020, and the sequel report, Modelling Solutions, in November. The research explores several potential approaches and models for scaling up affordable housing projects.
While continuing to make out clients we serve our top priority, we will expand our work in housing as the foundation of supporting community and champion integrated community health.
This year taught us how precarious life can be for those living at the poverty line. We believe we play a critical role to keep people safe and supported in the community while also finding new and innovative solutions to the challenges facing our city.
We saw those in our community step up to donate their time and energy for the greater good. While it took an extraordinary effort to continue our usual programming, we were encouraged every step of the way by the dedication of so many to a Toronto where everyone can thrive.