United Way’s invaluable social safety net

Why awareness matters.

When I tell people I’m the Coordinator of Labour Programs with United Way, they are not entirely sure what I do. I explain part of my job is to help unions and employers talk to their workers about difficult subjects like family violence.

It is surprising how many employers are uncomfortable to bring the subject up with an employee because of their lack of awareness about family violence. When these discussions need to happen it often leads to disciplinary action because of work absences.

But because of the trusted partnership United Way has established with labour unions and other employers, United Way is able to run programs that teach people how to interact with workers who may be experiencing violence at home. We teach how to ask questions and direct workers to community resources through United Way’s social safety net. Resources like United Way-funded programs at A Safe Place in Sherwood Park and Today Family Violence Help Centre which offer wrap-around care to vulnerable workers and their families.

United Way is also involved in another innovative program called Cut it Out. We teach stylists at salons and academies how to recognize domestic violence and how they can help. One salon owner told us that one of her clients divulged she was too afraid to go home. Thankfully, this owner knew what to do because of the training provided and was able to direct her client to resources that would help keep her safe.

By teaching employers and unions how to recognize family violence and how to be sensitive to the various factors that either led to the situation or is keeping the worker in that situation, the worker will be better empowered to access available help and make a positive decision.

I believe domestic violence can be stopped. Awareness through education is the key. And education empowers us all.


Perri Garvin

Coordinator of Labour Programs

How bringing family violence out of the shadows is saving lives.

You’ve heard the expression – “it takes a village to raise a child.” At Today Family Violence Help Centre we say – “it takes a community to save a life.”

When it comes to providing support to victims of family violence, we believe that no one agency can do it all. That’s why we work collaboratively with so many organizations to provide seamless support to clients. Eliminating barriers to client safety is our first priority!

Let me share one client story so you can see why it’s so important to bring family violence out of the shadows.

Jessica had two small children. She was being assaulted by her husband on a weekly basis and experienced daily emotional abuse. Her first attempt to reach out for help was not a positive one. Instead of getting help to escape, she was told that she would have her children taken away if her husband ever hurt her or her children again. She felt trapped and retreated into the shadows.

She eventually found her way to us and our first question was “What do you want to do?” She said she wanted to leave. We said “Okay. Then let’s get you out of there.”

That’s such an important first step – giving back control to the client. We start with where they are and what they want to do. We provide emotional support, help devise a safety plan and connect individuals impacted by family violence with other agencies that can provide practical supports. In Jessica’s case, we determined she was in the highest risk category for domestic homicide. What most people don’t realize is that individuals who leave these situations are still at risk even after they have stopped living in the home.

It is only because of the funding we receive from United Way, particularly for the assessment and intake work our dedicated team of specialists provide, that we can do this work. I dare say, that without United Way, we wouldn’t be able to keep our doors open and be there for people like Jessica when they need us most.

The Today Family Violence Help Centre is here to help victims and their families when they first reach out and every step of the way. But we can’t do it alone. That’s why we also use our expertise to build the capacity of others in our community who work with victims of family violence. It’s going to take a collective effort to combat family violence, and with United Way’s support and that of our partners, we know we are changing the stigma of this issues and saving lives.



Cindy Furlong, BA, RSW

Executive Director, Today Family Violence Help Centre

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Providing a Safety Net

Sometimes, life just takes a turn. A family crisis, a job loss, injury, mental illness, addiction, domestic abuse – the list is endless. United Way funded programs help people get back on track by providing critical services such as mental health supports and referral services.

In 2017, 40 United Way funded programs ensured 140,029 unique participants received support to deal with personal challenges and family struggles, and benefited from healthier, safer communities.

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Lives Changed

Funded partners are asked to elaborate on how participants’ lives were changed as a result of program participation. Here are some examples from the Providing a Safety Net focus area:

  • Participants reported personal healing and growth after experiencing a safe space and people to share their stories with. This allowed them to feel in control of their lives and move forward.
  • Decreased levels of stress, anxiety and improved overall mental well being.
    Increased knowledge of available community resources and comfort with accessing those supports.
  • Improved sense of belonging in the community. Young adults felt included and families felt safer.

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Program Highlights

  • In 2017, Urban Counselling Network provided counselling services to 105 clients. Counselling helped clients make positive changes regarding overall stability, self care, and improved relationships.
  • 206 people with lived experience of mental health and addictions participated in 8 peer lead groups and 4 professional lead groups over the year. Isolation and loneliness are some of the most challenging aspects of living independently in the community when living with a mental health concern and getting out in the community and partaking in activities through Peer Connections is a vital part of our participants’ and 11 peer leaders recovery journey.
  • In 2017, the Multicultural Seniors Outreach Program supported 302 immigrant, refugee, and newcomer seniors from more than eight different ethnocultural communities. Through supported cross-agency referrals, one-on-one system navigation, and linguistically-appropriate services, these seniors’ most basic needs were addressed as they and their families were connected to appropriate financial, health, and housing resources that demonstrably improved their quality of life.

How Bayshore® HealthCare is showing what partnership really means.

Since our early beginnings in 1956, Bayshore HealthCare has put the individual needs of our clients first in all we do. We call it the Bayshore difference. It’s one of the things that sets us apart as one of the most respected, Canadian owned, leading providers of home and community health care services. So, when we went looking for a local charitable organization to partner with, we knew we found the right fit with United Way.
At Bayshore, we are all about enhancing the quality of life, dignity and independence of our clients.

We operate from a heart-centred approach when providing practical solutions for maximum impact. We put the client first.

And at Bayshore, our dedicated staff strive to develop strong relationships with clients and their families so that the best services can be provided. And so does United Way.

That’s what makes our partnership so special. Our shared values and commitment to service inspires our staff who volunteer for events we host to shed light on all that United Way does in our community. And through our Bayshore Foundation, we match 50% on all funds we raise through our fundraisers!

Take for example Zoominescence which we did in December where families gathered at the Edmonton Valley Zoo to take in the holiday lights and activities including photos with Santa. We collected coats for kids and reinforced the message that poverty is unignorable. 100% of the ticket sales went to United Way with matching funds from our Foundation.

And we are already planning a huge fundraiser involving families and local businesses that will take place this summer, and one we hope will be an annual event. Stay tuned for more on that!

At Bayshore, we know how important continuity is to our clients. And we also appreciate how important continuity of funds is to charitable organizations like United Way. We are happy to do our part and are all in for the long haul with United Way!


Izabella Roth

Area Director, Bayshore® HealthCare