United Approach launches new charity effort anticipating powerful Edmonton winter

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The United Way Alberta Capital Region has launched its annual winter fundraising campaign and is expecting higher demand than usual as Albertans face affordability issues.

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With a goal of raising $25 million this year, donations will help address urgent needs by providing food hampers, winter coats for families, and hygiene kits for people who are houseless, said Rob Yager, president and CEO of United Way.

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“It’s no secret that life has gotten a lot tougher for people over the last couple of years,” Yager said, speaking at Friday’s campaign launch at the United Way InKind Exchange building at 147 Street and 112 Avenue.

“The pandemic, financial strain, inflation, food insecurity, mental illness and social issues are compounding things for more and more Albertans. And quite frankly, it’s created a financial affordability crisis for people in Alberta.”

Fundraising will also support United Way’s long-term efforts around mental health counselling, financial literacy programs, employment training and early childhood education.

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The organization works with 50 agency partners to help deliver 100 different programs and services.

“There are basic needs that need to be met, but there are more strategic investments that need to be made as well to ensure that we … actually work to break the cycle of poverty and change conditions in the long term,” said Yager.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi echoed the sentiments that Edmontonians are struggling to make ends meet.

“We have seen Edmonton’s houseless population double over the last two years during the pandemic,” Sohi said.

“We know that one in seven Edmontonians struggled with affordable housing and they’re spending more than 30 per cent of their income, just for basic housing that they need, and the people are struggling to pay their bills and many other ways. So in times of need, we all step up for each other and that’s exactly what we are asking Edmontonians to do.”

Last year, more than 244,000 people were supported through programs funded by the United Way, and more than 66,000 people accessed meals or food hampers. Over 800 at-risk youth were also supported to stay in school.

“The pandemic, and certainly the financial conditions that we’re seeing in our community and elsewhere are significant and creating tremendous pressures on individuals and families to make ends meet,” said Yager.

“We expect that that need is going to continue to be high for the next foreseeable future.”

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