Left Out in the Cold

Author // Shelley White

Left Out in the Cold

I am deeply saddened and extremely concerned about the deaths of two homeless men that recently succumbed to the frigid temperatures on the streets in Toronto. I can’t imagine a more cruel and unnecessary way for people to die. If we have the knowledge and resources to send a rocket to the moon, we most certainly have the ability to provide people with shelter from the cold.

Don’t think for a minute that homelessness and shelter from the cold is only a Toronto issue. I have witnessed first hand people sleeping outside in strip malls, parks, and in their cars right here in our community. Men and women have told me their stories about their experiences with homelessness due to job loss, divorce, separation and illness. Most of these individuals never expected that in their lifetime they would ever be homeless. At least 160,000 people in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga live in poverty and one-third of households face housing affordability issues. In a community of 1.3 million people that means that affordable housing is an issue for over 450,000 people.  

Deaths due to exposure to cold could happen in Peel.

That is why your United Way is committed to working with our partners to increase the availability of emergency, transitional and affordable housing in our community. Last year over 14,000 households used emergency and transitional housing in our community.  Approximately 12,800 households are on the waiting list for affordable housing in Peel.  

We are only human. We do not have control over and cannot foresee all the challenges that we may face throughout our lifetime. I believe that when people are experiencing tough times it's essential that they have access to safe, affordable housing, food, and counseling to help them get back on their feet. Our community is only great if it is great for everyone.

We are working towards this goal and have made some positive steps. United Way supports programs that help people living in emergency shelters or transitional housing to build the resources they need to move into more stable and permanent housing. We have seen:

  • 3233 individuals supported by UWPR were able to access housing
  • 237 people living in UWPR supported youth shelter or the shelter for abused women were able to make progress towards personal goals around employment, education, family and housing.
  • 310 individuals living in transitional housing reported improved relationships with family and friends

294 people are better prepared to handle the challenges life might throw at them, with new skills to cope with crisis.

But there's still a lot of work to be done. Together let’s make it our humanitarian resolution for 2015 to ensure that no one in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga gets left out in the cold.

About the Author

Shelley White

Shelley White

President and CEO, United Way of Peel Region

Shelley White is the President and CEO at United Way of Peel Region. She holds a Masters of Leadership Studies from the University Guelph and a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education degree from Brock University.   Shelley has over 30 years of experience in the non profit sector.  She has held executive positions with the YMCA of Greater Toronto and the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Central Ontario Branch.

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