In adversity, we’re stronger together

As we stare down harsh economic uncertainty, the reality is that people in this community need each other more than ever.

The ongoing pandemic and the economic turmoil we are now experiencing are delivering serious blows to our sense of well-being, as individuals and as communities.

Trips to the grocery store are growing ever-more costly. It is estimated the average Canadian family spent an extra $966 on food in 2022. For those on fixed incomes, social assistance or those not earning a living wage, it means choosing between having food to eat or paying the rent.

The rising cost of living has two effects: it is hitting the vulnerable among us the hardest and, inflation and rising interest rates mean the ranks of the vulnerable are growing.

Help lines across Canada received 19 per cent more requests for food-related assistance in the first six months of 2022, than in the last six months of 2021.

Food banks across the province saw a 10 to 12 per cent increase in demand over last year – many of whom are accessing food programs for the first time.

When individuals and families are struggling to meet basic needs – food, safe housing, heat and hydro, medicine – there is no room for anything else. No room to learn, no room to acquire job skills, no room to improve physical or mental health, no room to look out for, care for others, or contribute to the community.

Imagine skipping a trip to the grocery store because you have to pay your gas bill. Imagine not eating dinner so there is enough for your kids.

I will share the story of Susan, a senior with a disability who lives alone in our community. An error in paperwork interrupted her disability income. Already living below the poverty line, Susan didn’t have money to buy food. She was down to her last bowl of cereal, and was faced with resorting to eating her cat’s food. Instead, she called 211, a United Way-funded community helpline, and Susan was connected to several outreach services. Food was delivered to her door and her paperwork was corrected, reinstating her income.

There are thousands of stories just like Susan’s. The details are different but the reality is the same: more and more working households can’t make ends meet, people who rely on fixed incomes and low wages face daily struggle and the ability to afford food and other basic needs.

Your United Way is essentially the backbone to a critical network of local agencies supporting those struggling to meet these basic needs. But that network is also currently under great strain.

But you can help by investing in the work of United Way Halton & Hamilton. When you give to your United Way, you’re helping to ensure that those who are vulnerable are able to access critical supports that provide them with food and other life necessities.

From there, they can link to employment programs, job coaching, financial literacy and mental health supports.

When basic needs are taken care of, people have the capacity to build skills and resources so they can prepare for a better future.

The United Way-funded network of social supports, provide people like Susan and more than 205,000 others in our community with meaningful help so they are able to thrive.

Of course, just as households are feeling the grip of inflation, so are the agencies we support. Their costs continue to rise at the same time they are facing increased demand for their programs.

Issues are complex — we look beyond these issues individually. That is why it is a priority to protect this system, where multiple agencies provide invaluable services that so many people in our community rely on.

If you are in a position to help, please consider making a donation. We simply cannot meet the rising demand for social services without your support.

Together, we are stronger.

Brad Park, President & CEO of United Way Halton & Hamilton

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