United Way new host of Task Force for Poverty Elimination

GUELPH – United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin has announced it will now act as the host agency for the Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination.

“The Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination works collaboratively, informed by diverse voices of experience, to take local action and advocate for system and policy change to address the root causes of poverty,” states an Oct. 6 press release from United Way.

While United Way will act as host, the Poverty Task Force’s workplan will continue to be led by a steering committee of community members, informed by voices of lived experience, the press release noted.

Previously hosted by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, United Way executive director Glenna Banda said the organization has been working with the task force for many years, but it recently came to the attention of United Way officials the task force was looking for a new host agency.

Banda said as soon as they caught wind the task force was looking for someone, they stepped up because of the natural alignment of the two organizations’ work.

“It’s very aligned with a lot of the programs that we are fundraising for and so pairing up and sharing the work we do to raise funds and mobilize programs that are helping to end poverty … it just really partners up very well,” she explained.

“I think it really enhances it because with our new strategic direction we’re really figuring out how we can mobilize a shared responsibility for a social good and mobilizing is more than just raising funds and putting it into programs,” Banda said on the new partnership.

She added it’s important to think about collective approaches, advocacy and education to really make change.

“It’s a way that really partners up the great work that both of our organizations are doing so that its really aligned,” she reiterated.

“It’s about really making that change in multiple ways outside of just sort of the traditional United Way funding format.”

Banda added the pandemic demonstrated the cracks in social service systems, disproportionately impacting those living in poverty.

“It definitely really highlighted the inequities in our community and the one thing I heard early on, and this is so true, that we were all in the same storm but we’re in different boats.”

She explained there wasn’t a heavy impact on those in the community who remained employed or may have been able to work safely from home.

“Then when you saw families that were lower income families, there was such a disproportionate impact on them because they were at greater risk,” she said, adding a lot of them were working in more frontline type of work.

“So the amount of financial pressure but as well impacts like the mental health stresses because of the nature of the work – we just really saw how it negatively impacted certain members of our community so much more than others.”

Banda said part of the role at United Way is to monitor community needs and adjust for whatever’s going on at that time.

She added because of the organization’s experience through the pandemic with community consultations and seeing some of the impacts, officials felt that they really needed to change things, adding United Way is doing a fairly significant shift in how they’ve done funding in the past.

“There’s a greater focus on collective and collaborative work because it’s just really important to think about how all of the different issues intersect,” she explained.

“When you’re thinking about poverty, food security, financial security, housing, mental health and how working together in those various areas is so important … we’re really trying to figure out how we can really work together to move the needle.”

Banda noted, as part of their Community Impact Strategy, the organization is also putting a greater emphasis on supporting equity seeking groups.

“So again, I think getting back to some of the impacts of the pandemic and the disproportionate impacts and making sure we are supporting those that were most impacted and emphasizing that,” she said.

Banda added United Way is also working to create an individualized approach to rural communities because, having a community strategy for Guelph and Wellington County and Dufferin isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

“We’re really just trying to learn and listen from everything that’s happened over the last 18 months and figure out how we can adjust how we’re doing out funding and work in the community to really respond to everything that’s going on,” she said.