WoodGreen’s Financial Wellness program builds financial empowerment

Clinics on financial literacy, income tax, financial wellness and documentation enable people to take charge of their assets

Danielle Hornung, Manager of Community Impact, Brent Grimard, Program Assistant, Keisha McIntosh, Financial Coordinator

WoodGreen’s financial wellness program helps low income people across all demographics, including seniors, singles, families and newcomers. Through the delivery of four free clinics, people are taught methods of effectively managing their finances and are provided with the right tools for success.

In recognition of the important role that these clinics play in the community, the Ontario Trillium Foundation recently awarded the Financial Wellness Services a three year Grow Grant. The program is also funded by ESDC and the Steps Foundation.

In 2015 over:
0 volunteers administered the 2016 free tax clinic

WoodGreen entered into a new partnership with Prosper Canada to integrate financial coaching into WoodGreen’s Employment, Homeward Bound and Settlement units.

This collaboration will build organizational capacity and knowledge on financial wellness, which in turn will increase the amount of direct support and information that front line workers across WoodGreen can provide to clients.

There are four components of WoodGreen’s Financial Wellness program. All of them are offered at no cost to clients.

1. The Financial Literacy Workshops – WoodGreen staff and volunteers deliver a variety of workshops related to Financial Literacy, including debt, retirement and income tax. The workshops are delivered at WoodGreen offices and a variety of other satellite locations including Toronto Community Housing buildings and libraries.

2. The Income Tax Clinic – Served 3,605 clients and facilitated over $6 million in tax returns in 2015. A small cadre of expert volunteers train other volunteers to prepare simple tax returns and act as a resource throughout tax season. During March and April, there are six clinics offered every week at various locations in the east end. After tax season the Income Tax Clinic continues to operate on a weekly basis to help people with more complex returns and back taxes. The Income Tax Clinic has been in operation for 20 years, and increases in size every year. It takes approximately 150 – 175 volunteers to run WoodGreen’s tax clinic, and involves a specialized on-boarding training process.

3. The Financial Wellness Clinic – Clients have the opportunity to meet with an expert volunteer on a one-on-one basis to receive counselling on debt, credit and money management, savings and retirement planning, government benefits, tax relief and any financial related matter. The sessions are held on a weekly basis and have tapped into the demand for unbiased and easily accessible financial information and solutions.

4. The Documentation Clinic – Staff, students and volunteers help clients obtain official documents, complete application forms, understand formal notices, and explain bureaucratic processes in simple terms.

WoodGreen’s programs foster financial empowerment and are scalable to meet the growing needs of the community. WoodGreen has emerged as a leader in this field, and has set the tone for what supports are needed going forward to ensure people living on low incomes have the tools they need to be empowered.