Responding to youth violence in the GTA

In recent weeks, youth violence has taken an alarming turn across the GTA. We must get at the root of the issue. Working with community has never been more important. United Way Greater Toronto President and CEO Daniele Zanotti offers his comments.

Youth Violence TO-Photo (Blog)

There has been a flurry of headlines, soundbites, tweets and blogs all trying to define, diagnose and dissect youth violence across the GTA. This is not a flashpoint in the heat of the summer. Behind the recent increase in youth violence is rising poverty and inequality, decades in the making, cementing and connecting itself in GTA neighbourhoods. And it requires decades of sustained investments and community collaboration to correct.

In the urgency of so many lives lost and hurt, it is too easy to be moved to reactive solutions. In the continuing tragedy being faced by communities, it is too easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of the challenges.

This is not an “either-or” issue. It is immediate action AND long-term solutions. It is prevention AND policy. It requires residents and agencies; faith and business; police and government. And it requires continuous and strategic acts of intervention and care.

That’s why United Way works every day, so often invisibly, on the ground, with community.

Partnership is at the heart of everything we do.

Over a decade ago, anchored in Poverty by Postal Code, we partnered in neighbourhoods across the city to build hubs, support resident action and solutions, mobilize policy and investment, and pioneer youth leadership initiatives through our Youth Challenge Fund. The work that we are doing together with donors, the City and so many other partners on a strong neighbourhood strategy remains one of the most comprehensive efforts to curb violence and youth poverty in the city.

And we continue to build on this foundation in Peel, Toronto and York Region.

Communities are at the centre of solutions.

It always starts with putting communities and people at the heart of driving solutions. That’s why we are continuing to invest in the people, places and priorities where the need is the greatest.

We are helping young people access good jobs.

We must get to the root causes of hopelessness by connecting young people to good jobs. That’s why we are working with young people facing multiple barriers and employers to create pathways to meaningful employment through our Career Navigator and netWORKS programs.

We are continuously improving how we work together to change outcomes for those most vulnerable to violence.

It requires taking a comprehensive approach to systemic solutions through partnerships like FOCUS (Furthering Our Community by Uniting Services), a table with the City of Toronto, Toronto Police Services, United Way and 90 community agencies—collaboratively managing some of our city’s most complex individual cases before they become community crises. That’s why we are committed to working as part of a joint effort to scale this innovative model and grow its preventative impact. And we continue to strengthen partnerships with young people, police forces, school boards and youth-serving agencies across Peel and York Region.

More news on this and other investments to come in the weeks ahead, as we work together with our partners.

But you have to know that we are here. In it. With community. Immediate and impactful. Long-term and intentional. Still one of the most comprehensive efforts in curbing violence and youth poverty in the GTA.

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