Poverty, social isolation, homelessness, unemployment, domestic violence, hunger, education inequality, and mental health are all #UNIGNORABLE issues that our community faces. Sheri Benson, CEO of United Way Saskatoon and Area, reflects on how the pandemic impacts organizations and those most vulnerable in our community. She shares how organizations and donors have faced these challenges, worked together, and pooled resources to address these #UNIGNORABLE issues. As we have seen, as COVID cases increase, organizations like Prairie Harm Reduction, White Buffalo Youth Lodge, The Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre, The Bridge and others have been pushed to close their doors. To support our community, we can support our local caring organizations.
“When COVID began the challenge we faced was to support frontline heroes and organizations to be able to stay open and to continue to provide services to those folks who were vulnerable. Because of the generosity that people have in the community, we were in a position to be able to rapidly respond to get resources out to those communities and those agencies. That meant that services that people relied on were there when they needed them”.
“Many vulnerable people in our community count on front line community services, like Saskatchewan Indian and Metis Friendship Centre, Catholic Family Services Saskatoon, and Saskatoon Crisis Intervention Service. People really count on those services, and need to count on them more so now than ever, because when you’re faced with issues like poverty and homelessness, the impact of a pandemic, for lots of people, but especially for the most vulnerable, can mean life or death”.
Helping agencies stay open and continue to provide services in ways that have been safe for both those accessing services and for those providing services has been a priority and an important part of supporting Saskatoon’s most vulnerable. In response to COVID, there have also been larger initiatives, and major demonstrations of generosity and cooperation.
“We work cooperatively and collectively with a large group of community agencies and other funders through the Saskatoon Inter-Agency Response to COVID-19, which was a chance for those in the charitable sector and in the non-profit sector to get together to galvanize all those resources we have to make sure that those who were vulnerable weren’t left behind”.
“It’s important for everyone to know the extra challenges that are being faced by local caring agencies who are helping vulnerable folks in our community. For those of us who can be generous, that is one way we can make sure those organizations, regardless of a pandemic, are there to help folks. We also want to help ensure that when we start to recover, that we have that caring, connected group of agencies being strong and healthy”.
One of the major challenges faced by front line organizations, and by the most vulnerable people they help, has been increased needs and diminished capacity to meet those needs. During times like this it is more important than ever that we work together, lend a helping hand and demonstrate unwavering support and generosity to those most vulnerable and those serving them. By coming together, by cooperating, and by caring for one another, we are #UnitedApart.