WoodGreen offers almost 80 programs and services that address the social determinants that affect the health and wellbeing of individuals in our community.
Keeping folks housed and financially stable was an important task during 2020.
“During the pandemic, it was an important time to support our client base with their financial needs. We have offered both a free tax clinic as well as free tax services for years, but we created two new types of services to help families and individuals with financial counselling, accessing benefits and debt management,” said Steve Vanderherberg, Director of Economic Empowerment at WoodGreen.
The first new service identifies those in the community falling through the cracks. The Seniors Poverty Reduction Program, made possible with the United Way Allan Slaight Seniors Fund, helps train staff who are active in the community to identify vulnerable seniors and connect them with financial services. We also launched a new pilot project, thanks to the generous support from the Sprott Foundation. This innovative partnership between our Financial Empowerment team and our Housing and Homelessness unit will help clients to get their taxes filed, apply for the correct benefits, and navigate the system to ensure they remain housed and do not fall into homelessness.
Another type of assistance we developed is the Family Finance Clinic. With the help of Scotiabank, we were able to design a proactive, intensive model of financial counselling which creates a range of individualized programming and financial planning to help low-income families. This clinic fills a much-needed gap in our community. Even before COVID, thousands of Toronto families struggled to make ends meet. The first cohort of 10 families has been through the program and has seen wonderful results.
One of the most common discoveries during the Financial Check-up was that 80% of the families who participated in the program did not have a budget when they began. Over several sessions, each family worked with their counsellor to learn the foundations of budgeting, starting with practicing ongoing, detailed income and expense tracking, to find out exactly where their money was going each month and trying different methods for budget monitoring, like mobile applications or templated budgeting worksheets.
As one client shared, “This has made a difference in so many ways. I now have savings and a budget. In fact, now I have a plan and a schedule, which I know I must always follow. It’s written down and it’s on the fridge door so whenever I open my fridge, I am reminded of what I need to do to get where I want to go in the future. It has really helped me a lot.”