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United Way Toronto and York Region

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A foundation for everything we do

Through groundbreaking research, we can identify and better understand the issues that impact life in our region. By improving our understanding, we can then develop sound, long-term strategies for tackling persistent social problems. Research is what allows us to deliver results that make a real impact in our communities—and in the lives of all who live here.

Our current reports

Understanding the Numbers: Working Together to Prevent, Reduce and End Homelessness in York Region

Download the Full Report (pdf)

Report cover: Understanding the NumbersAn estimated 235,000 people across Canada are homeless. We often think of this as a downtown issue, but homelessness in suburban communities is a challenge too. In this report, United Way partnered with The Regional Municipality of York to bring together two sets of important data: information gathered during a first-ever point-in-time count of homelessness conducted by United Way, and data collected by the Region through the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS). With this robust data, we learned that homelessness in York Region impacts people from every walk of life—but some populations are at greater risk than others. The information contained in this report will help United Way continue its work with the Region, other levels of government, and other partners to eliminate homelessness in York Region in ten years.

The Precarity Penalty Executive Summary: York Region

Download the Executive Summary (pdf)

Report cover: The Precarity Penalty Executive Summary: York RegionWe know that precarious employment is a serious and growing issue. Our research tells us that the realities of having an uncertain work schedule, irregular earnings and no benefits are having a negative impact on the wellbeing of residents across the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton. We’ve now taken a closer look at the labour market in York Region and have uncovered some important findings. In our United Way and McMaster University’s report, The Precarity Penalty Executive Summary: York Region, we’ve learned that insecure employment isn’t just a downtown issue, it’s widespread across York Region. This report outlines this prevalence and illustrates some interesting comparisons too, and underscores our commitment to continue working across all sectors to make real change happen.

On Track to Opportunities: Linking Transit Development to Community Employment and Training Project

Download the Full Report (pdf)

On Track to Opportunities Report Cover

Prospects for residents in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods can be bleak.  Unemployment rates are high. Access to services and supports remain a challenge.  Yet, in these very same communities, major infrastructure projects, such as the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, are being launched, bringing with them a demand for skilled labour.What if every time we put a shovel in the ground for infrastructure, we created new opportunities for those at risk of being left behind? That is the groundbreaking idea behind a new Community Benefits framework designed by United Way, community partners and Metrolinx. Based on two years of research and community outreach, this government-commissioned report outlines successful implementation of this bold new approach.

The Precarity Penalty: The impact of employment precarity on individuals, households and communities—and what to do about it

Download the Executive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

The Precarity Penalty report coverUnited Way and McMaster University’s report, The Precarity Penalty, looks at the impact of rising precarious, or insecure, employment in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton. Precarious employment penalizes people across all income levels through jobs that offer lower wages, limited benefits and high levels of instability making it difficult to move onto better opportunities. The research also shows that the uncertainty of precarious jobs affects the health and well-being of individuals and families. The report concludes with tangible solutions that focus on modernizing policy and programs for today’s labour market. These include working together with our partners—government, private sector, labour and community groups—to enhance social and community supports, ensure that jobs are a pathway to income and employment security and build a dynamic labour market that responds to the needs of workers in precarious jobs.

The Opportunity Equation: Building opportunity in the face of growing income inequality

Download the Executive Summary (pdf) | Downdload the Full Report (pdf)

The Opportunity Equation report coverUnited Way’s new report, The Opportunity Equation, looks at rising income inequality in Toronto and its impact on access to opportunity. Research shows the gap between those who are doing well financially, and those who are not, has grown faster here than in other major Canadian cities. It also finds that hard work is not seen as a guarantee for success. People feel that circumstances beyond individuals’ control, like one’s postal code, family income and background, have become barriers to a good future. The report highlights tangible solutions including partnerships for youth success, community benefits and tools to promote quality jobs. It also calls on multiple partners across the city—including government, private sector, labour and community groups—to work together to mitigate the impact of income inequality in Toronto. 

Leaving Home: Youth Homelessness in York Region

Download the Executive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

Leaving Home: Youth Homelessness in York RegionFindings reveal a more integrated systems approach is needed to prevent youth from becoming homeless and to stop the flow of young people from institutional care into homelessness. Early intervention was also identified as a preventative measure. The report has a major focus on prevention and is informing United Way’s role as the Community Entity of the federally funded Homelessness Partnership Strategy.

Closing the Prosperity Gap: Solutions for a More Liveable City Region

Download the Fact Sheet (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

Closing the Prosperity Gap - report coverUnited Way and the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s new report, “Closing the Prosperity Gap: Solutions for a More Liveable City Region”, outlines key issues influencing our region’s prosperity. These issues include: the widening gap in job quality; a growing gap between neighbourhoods doing well and those falling behind; and high rates of youth and newcomer unemployment and underemployment. The report also highlights some tangible ways forward including, community benefits, social enterprise and new zoning. It calls on civic leaders to work with community, business, labour and educators on solutions for this issue.

It’s More Than Poverty: Employment Precarity and Household Wellbeing (PEPSO)

Download the Executive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

Report cover: It's More Than PovertyReleased in 2013, this joint report from us and McMaster University examines changes in our local labour market. Of note, 40% of people are now working in precarious jobs (i.e., without benefits or with uncertain futures), which is negatively impacting their lives, their families and their communities. The Government of Ontario responded by investing $13 million in improved enforcement of the Employment Standards Act, and has introduced legislation to further protect precarious workers.

Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty (Declining income, housing quality and community life in Toronto’s inner suburban high-rise apartments)

Download the Excutive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

Report cover of Vertical Poverty: Poverty By Postal code 2

Released in 2011, this report examines the growing number of high-poverty neighbourhoods in the city’s inner suburbs—and the further concentration of poverty in high-rise rental towers in these neighbourhoods. In 2012, we launched the Tower Neighbourhood Renewal initiative, which brings together stakeholders (in four pilot sites) to test strategies for revitalizing tower communities. The City of Toronto has since reformed zoning by-laws to promote neighbourhood vibrancy and development.

“…More than roads, sewers, stores and schools.”: Findings from our five-part Meeting House series

Download the ull Report (pdf)

1.	…more than roads, sewers, stores and schools" This report is a culmination of findings from United Way’s 2011 Meeting House series, a five-part community dialogue that explored the need for social infrastructure in York Region. The discussions brought over 250 residents, community groups, businesses and labour partners together to explore new ways to get ahead of pressing social issues.

Losing Ground: The persistent growth of family poverty in Canada’s largest city

Download the Excutive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

Report cover of Losing Ground

Released in 2007, this report examines the growing number of low-income families in Toronto (paving the way for our 2012 report on precarious employment). A key finding about the economic vulnerability of women led to our Women Gaining Ground initiative, which focuses on the education and employment of women. This research also influenced decisions in the Government of Ontario, which introduced a 2007 Poverty Reduction Strategy, supported a committee review of the Payday Loans Act, and brought about changes to the Employment Standards Act. 

Strong Neighbourhoods: A call to action

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Report cover of Strong Neighbourhoods: A call to Action

Released in 2005, this report from the Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force (comprising many civic leaders) called for a long-term commitment to strengthen neighbourhoods, through coordinated investment and local resident leadership. It led to our Building Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy, launched in 2005, which outlines a three-pronged approach for revitalizing 13 priority neighbourhoods in Toronto’s inner suburbs. The Government of Ontario aligned community-health-centre projects with five Community Hubs, the federal government invested in Community Hubs through the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, and private-sector donors became more engaged in funding infrastructure and resident engagement. 

Poverty by Postal Code: The geography of neighbourhood poverty

Download the Excutive Summary (pdf) | Download the Full Report (pdf)

Report cover of Poverty by Postal code

Released in 2004, this report examines the increase (from 1981 to 2001) in the number of high-poverty neighbourhoods in Toronto—and how the concentration of poverty is impacting vulnerable groups. Supported by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario, we came together with the City of Toronto to build an action plan for revitalizing Toronto neighbourhoods. This research and place-based strategy for improving social conditions were cited as a key influence on recommendations for improving supports for young people in our city.

A Decade of Decline: Poverty and income inequality in the city of Toronto in the 1990s

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Report cover of A Decade of Decline

Released in 2002, this foundational report examines how—despite a period of robust economic growth in the late 1990s—the gaps between Toronto’s rich and poor continue to widen. Findings have shaped a robust research agenda into issues related to poverty, marking the first time we identified investment in Toronto’s inner suburbs as an emerging priority. The research informed “Enough Talk: An Action Plan for the Toronto Region,” from the Toronto City Summit Alliance (now called CivicAction).