The Impact of the Urgent Needs Fund

The Impact of the Urgent Needs Fund

The Urgent Needs Fund has been assisting residents of Simcoe Muskoka living in low-income households and has been filling the needs-services gap that threatens to entrench people further into poverty since October 2019. Hundreds of recipients have benefited from the Urgent Needs Fund to meet everyday needs and to help when no other help could be found.

The assistance provided by the Urgent Needs Fund goes beyond meeting immediate needs, though. While helping our most vulnerable, this new fund helps to restore dignity in its recipients and allows us to better understand the issues in our individual communities.

Meeting the Most Urgent Needs

First and foremost, the Urgent Needs Fund was made to help meet the pressing, everyday issues that become even more difficult because of poverty. While there are many great charities working throughout Simcoe Muskoka, too many people still fall through the gap of existing services.

With that gap in mind, UWSM created the Urgent Needs Fund. Since its inception, the Urgent Needs Fund has been helping those in Simcoe Muskoka who needed it most, through modest, one-time grants, the vast majority of which were just $250 or less.

With this helping hand, more than 95% of recipients say they are better prepared to handle the obstacles that life throws at them. By helping those living in poverty or at risk of it, we can stop people from falling into the gap.

With the first 90 recipients of the Urgent Needs Fund, 154 different needs were met. Among these, food and clothing were the most prevalent, which are items that are often neglected within the cycle of poverty. Repeatedly, we heard of funds being used to get winter clothes for a family or just put healthy food on the table. Check out the image below for the ways the Urgent Needs Fund has been used.

“It brought me peace of mind – vaccinations I could have never afforded – pneumonia and shingles. (I’m now at) less risk of getting sick. I am so very grateful.”

Restoring Dignity

Within the feedback we have received from Urgent Needs Fund recipients, another recurring theme was that of dignity – how the recipients felt respected throughout the process.

For many, receiving social assistance can feel like giving up. It can be a difficult decision to ask for help, especially from charities and non-profits. In our society, stigma still surrounds poverty and the simple act of asking for help.

By working with Regional Agency Leads to distribute the grants, UWSM has helped ensure that recipients of the Urgent Needs Fund receive the respect they deserve. Frequently, individuals from the Regional Agency Leads would accompany grant recipients, helping them buy the groceries they needed or driving them to get new clothes for their family.

“These funds were given to me in the most gracious manner. I felt treated like a real person which was better than receiving the actual funds themselves.”

“It was such a respectful process – didn’t make me feel demoralized. Made me feel safe and let me keep my pride and that is very important.”

It was difficult to make the call and you made it comfortable and easy”

“It was wonderful. They didn’t make me feel degraded at all when I picked up the money”

Understanding Needs

With the Urgent Needs Fund and our upcoming collaborative projects, UWSM has taken a regional approach at addressing poverty and social isolation in Simcoe Muskoka. Through this approach, we are able to get a better understanding of the needs of our communities.

By working with 211 Central East Ontario and the District of Muskoka, we can track and analyze the use of the Urgent Needs Fund. This analysis let’s us better understand where and how assistance can be put to best use by, by UWSM and other organizations.

For example, about half of the recipients of the Urgent Needs Fund in North Simcoe (Town of Midland, Town of Penetanguishene, Township of Tay, Township of Tiny), are currently experiencing homelessness and have used the Urgent Needs Fund to help with cell phone bills. While a lot of us might take cell phones for granted, the ability to remain in contact with friends and family is important for social and mental health, and a cell phone is essential in finding employment.

“Helped tremendously – got a phone – means to obtain work and get medication for what I needed.”

Furthermore, Urgent Needs Fund recipients were also made aware of existing community services to help with other needs. One of the most harmful aspects of poverty is how it affects most, if not all, of your life.

After receiving assistance, 95% of recipients say that they had an increased knowledge of other community services and programs. Furthermore, 90 recipients of the Urgent Needs Fund in Simcoe County were also referred to 118 other services and programs.

Giving Hope

The Urgent Needs Fund is doing so much to help the most vulnerable in Simcoe Muskoka, from meeting immediate needs to ensuring recipients are respected to making sure that future investments in our communities are more impactful. In addition to that, the Urgent Needs Fund is giving hope for a better future.

That’s why March is the Month of Hope. Thanks to the Orsi Group, all individual donations to United Way Simcoe Muskoka’s Community Fund – which supports initiatives like the Urgent Needs Fund – will be matched up to $10,000, doubling the value and impact that your gift can have.

That means your gift gives double the hope.

Click here to give your gift of hope.

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