More than 1,400 Torontonians whose voices are not usually heard at City Hall took part in consultations to tell the City what they need as we recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. Their opinions and ideas are shared in our new report, Community Voices Pave the Road to Recovery.
The City of Toronto partnered with us to design and deliver a city-wide consultation process—led by residents, grassroots groups, and community organizations—to engage residents from Indigenous populations, equity-seeking groups, vulnerable populations, and neighbourhoods with disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 cases.
Some top findings of the Community Voices Pave the Road to Recovery report include:
● Almost 70% of respondents indicated feeling sad, anxious, overwhelmed, or lonely,
● 42% indicated that they had lost employment or income,
● 37% lost access to critical programs or supports, and
● 27% had to visit a food bank or other food security program.
The pandemic's profound impact is seen in notable shifts in the services and supports participants accessed pre-pandemic and those they need urgently in the next six months. The most significant shifts were noted in:
● income supports: 24% accessed pre-pandemic vs. 47% now urgently need;
● affordable housing: 15% pre-pandemic vs. 36% now; and
● mental health services: 22% vs 38%.
An overwhelming number of participants used parks, public spaces, libraries, recreation programs, and public transit before the pandemic and also identified these as urgent priorities for our recovery.
Each of these services contributes to strong communities that are accessible, safe, economically healthy, and good places to live and raise families. The City is going to have to make tough choices about how to use its resources—communities are the foundation of our city, and they must be the first and most important investment. We agree with respondents that the City has demonstrated it can mobilize quickly and effectively—and it needs to do so again to move our recovery in the right direction.
The findings from these SPT-supported consultations were reported to the Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild (TORR) in September, and were included in TORR’s final report to the City Manager’s Office. The City Manager's report, outlining recommendations for recovery, will be debated by Executive Committee on October 21.
Residents stressed that pandemic recovery is an opportunity to make the city better than it was before by focusing on those disproportionately impacted and listening to the voices of people with lived experience. These consultations were a good starting place. But for an equitable recovery, the City needs to commit to hearing these voices throughout our recovery. We will be following the City's efforts to ensure residents are heard.