The Y has a long history of meeting urgent needs in our communities, from serving as a relief centre in the aftermath of Hurricane Hazel in 1954 to delivering child care to support women entering the work force after the Second World War. Today, we’re stepping up to help our communities recover and rebuild in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our top priorities are housing, employment, mental health, and child care.
There isn't enough safe, affordable housing in the GTA for everyone. Lacking alternatives, too many find themselves living on the street, without access to the basic necessities and supports they need to get back on track.
YMCA Sprott House and The Wagner Green YMCA kept their doors open to at-risk youth throughout the state of emergency and beyond. Extra staff were deployed, including to a hotel site to allow for increased physical distancing, and additional health and safety precautions were implemented to ensure we could continue offering youth experiencing homelessness emergency shelter and free, empowering supports.
Over the next five years, we will continue serving as a critical lifeline for homeless and at-risk youth, helping to meet not only their immediate needs, but also offering resources like legal guidance and employment programs that help them build brighter futures for themselves. We will also expand our work to create more and fairer housing options for older adults.
COVID-19 has led to unprecedented job insecurity and financial struggle. As education, training, and opportunities to gain work experience are all upended, many can't even get a foothold in the labour market.
During lockdown, our Employment services team offered the support for un- and underemployed individuals that we know will be essential as we work to rebuild our economy. They began reaching job seekers online and by phone for one-on-one help, and offering digital webinars and job fairs to connect them with new opportunities.
Losing their already-precarious jobs, missing out on summer internships, and watching the labour pool dry up just as they were supposed to wade into it — these challenges and more are dimming the next generation's potential. We’ll focus on youth in particular as we help those disadvantaged in finding employment navigate a labour market unlike any we’ve experienced before.
The pandemic brought Canadians’ decades-long mental health crisis out of the shadows. Not only did it stir up feelings of worry, fear, and anxiety; it also hindered access to the resources people need to support their mental well-being.
Just three days after closing the doors of our Health & Fitness centres in March 2020, our community reunited virtually in a group fitness class livestreamed straight to their homes. Over the course of the summer 2020, our Y would share 545 videos to help our members stay active and connected, culminating in over 2.1 million views. Our ever-evolving fitness options, which now include outdoor classes (when permitted) and virtual classes and personal training, continue to support our members’ physical and mental well-being throughout a crisis that threatens both. We’ve also extended support in other ways, including thousands of phone calls to check in on our community members during lockdowns; virtual camp activities; and our new online community The Bright Spot, which connects older adults, many of whom were already feeling isolated before the pandemic.
So much of what people gain at the Y helps them build resilience, from the physical exercise we know to be connected with mental health, to the feelings of community and connection we know people need to live a fulfilling life. In the coming years, we’ll prioritize the mental health of our members, participants, volunteers, and staff, investing in the supports all people need to boost this critical aspect of well-being.
COVID-19 sparked a “she-cession,” potentially setting women back decades in terms of their ability to bring their expertise to our workforce. One barrier is that child care responsibilities continue to fall disproportionately to women.
During lockdowns, the YMCA cared for the children of essential workers — nurses, doctors, police, firefighters, personal support workers, grocery store staff, and so many more — so they could do their crucial work on the frontlines.
As the largest not-for-profit child care provider in Canada, we know how critical this service is for our economic recovery. We’ll continue our fifty-year-long legacy of delivering and advocating for more high-quality, affordable child care, so more families who need and want it have this option available to them.