Daniele Zanotti, CEO and president of United Way Toronto and York Region, says the charity's $88 million investment targets areas that are dealing with growing income inequality. (VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR) |

United Way Toronto-York to give $88M to combat poverty

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Contribution is said to be the largest investment made by the organization to date, with 65 per cent being targeted to areas outside the downtown core.

The United Way of Toronto-York is distributing more than half of a major investment to areas outside the downtown core, where poverty is deemed to be particularly severe.

United Way of Toronto-York announced it’s contributing $88 million to address income inequality overall on Thursday, said to be the largest investment made by the organization to date.

“Today, with this record investment, we have completely inverted the face of our investments, the impact of our investments, with 65 per cent now targeted in those outer suburbs where poverty is playing out,” said Daniele Zanotti, CEO and president of United Way Toronto and York Region. “This is the synergy of our investment.”

The expenditure, an uptick of $1 million from last year, is earmarked for these regions because a lack of social infrastructure is compounding the problem, Zanotti said.

The remaining money will continue to flow to agencies in the city centre.

Recent research spearheaded by the charity reveals that the Greater Toronto Area is the “income inequality capital of Canada,” continued Zanotti, adding that middle income neighbourhoods are vanishing.

“We are becoming, for all intents and purposes, islands of segregated neighbourhoods,” he said.

Income inequality isn’t only deepening, but spreading into the 905, Zanotti said. The investment, he added, will target the places and people hit the most.

Through community consultation and its strategic plan, 10 investment priorities were identified by the charity, including youth development, homelessness prevention, employment and mental health, Zanotti said.

“Part of that is to make services accessible in those communities,” he said. “It ensures a responsive and forward looking infrastructure for this region as it evolves.”

The Krasman Centre, a mental health organization located in Richmond Hill, is one of the agencies slated to receive new funding. It will take in roughly $100,000 on an annual basis from United Way for its peer recovery education program, executive director Susan Dobson said. The investment will enable it to bring in trainers who can instruct peer support workers and offer paid internships, she added.

“We’re a consumer/survivor initiative, meaning that we’re led and run by people with lived experience of mental health or addiction challenges,” she said. “A lot of folks with mental health challenges have had different barriers to maybe having gainful employment or accessing education and training, so we’re happy that this program will allow us to offer both.”

Dobson said about 85 per cent of the people her organization supports are impacted by poverty.

The investment builds on work from last year which saw 62 anchor partners across the region collaborate with United Way Toronto-York.

“This announcement is the second phase,” Zanotti said. “It continues the funding for these 62 anchor partners and it welcomes new program funding.”

United Way has 220 agencies in its purview in total.

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