CEO Update from United Way KFL&A – May, 2021

Good afternoon! Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy through the third wave of the pandemic and the current lockdown.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a sharp focus on homelessness in many communities, including Kingston and the neighbouring counties. The latest urban Point in Time Count was held in April 2021 in Kingston. The report will be finalized in June this year.  Preliminary results indicate 212 people, of which 152 people were in shelters, the Integrated Care Hub, or were on the street and 60 people were in transitional housing.  This is higher than the previous Point in Time Count when we saw 124 people (of which 65 were in shelters or on the streets, and 59 were in transitional housing).  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, United Way KFL&A and agencies in the community identified a growing need to support people who were homeless. United Way has worked to support shelters with food, PPE, additional staffing and in some cases support for shelters that needed to move to different locations to allow their clients to isolate.

We continue to work closely with all levels of government, agencies and others in the community to find solutions and support. We know that housing and homelessness are complex issues that need supports that are collaborative and long-term.

In line with the above, this week’s update includes details on a collaborative initiative between frontline agencies, the City of Kingston and United Way KFL&A called Path Home Kingston. This initiative focuses on awareness and showing the complexities and life experiences of community members who may be experiencing homelessness. We also have an update on our community’s work to prevent and end youth homelessness.

I’d also like to take a moment to tell you about this year’s Day of Caring and the exciting opportunities to create donation kits, run donation drives or support a ‘Day of Caring’ at programs in the community. 


United Way KFL&A and the City of Kingston have partnered with frontline agencies to create a new awareness campaign called Path Home Kingston that aims to help community members understand that the causes of homelessness are complex and different for each individual.

With input from Kingston residents with lived experience, Path Home Kingston shares stories of individuals from different backgrounds who are homeless or have been homeless, showing how their path through life and experiences impacted their current situation.

The campaign, designed by BmDodo Strategic Design, is incredibly impactful and visual and shows that it’s not possible to see the challenges an individual has faced or what someone’s overcome at a glance.

We know from speaking to agencies and individuals that everyone is potentially just steps away from potentially being homeless.

“At our shelter we have seen every walk of life come through our doors,” explained Amanda Brierley, Supervisor, In From The Cold Emergency Shelter, Kingston Home Base Housing. “What I would like the community to consider is that anyone is only three steps away from homelessness. It is a loss of family – relationship breakdown or death; loss of job – this has happened even more with the pandemic; and loss of home or being unable to pay rent.”

Through the Path Home Kingston site, agencies, businesses and individuals can read stories, find resources to help, learn more about homelessness in the city and find connections on where to learn more, help or offer feedback. 

To learn more about Path Home Kingston, visit and learn more about the project on the United Way website as well.


In 2013, the United Way of KFL&A coordinated a pilot research project on mobilizing capacity to address youth homelessness in a mid-sized community. Embarking on this journey, we recognized that our community needed a targeted, collaborative, collective impact approach – one that focused on prevention and identifying the root cause of the issue. At the time, eight years ago, Kingston and area had a higher than average youth homeless percentage (one in three, where the national average was one in five). A plan was developed with youth input and prevention was identified as a key strategy. 

As a community we have made good progress, with more youth being housed, preventative programs introduced and more support provided to youth. Some of the results include:

More than 156 youth have been housed with the support of a case manager

A Family Mediation Worker has counselled 177 youth and their families to look for possible resolution of conflict, which is the number one reason for youth becoming homeless. Only 18 of these cases resulted in a youth entering shelter.

This year, a full review was completed, complementing the work of the City of Kingston Homelessness and Housing review. Over 170 youth provided input to guide the development of strategies.  This input is captured in a report that can be accessed on the United Way KFL&A website. The input was shared with the Youth Homelessness Steering Committee and strategies were confirmed, with some additional areas of focus identified.

The following updated strategies are being recommended:

  1. Prevention as a core strategy to increase awareness
    2. Integrated system of care, keeping a youth-centred approach
    3. Housing options that suit the needs of youth
    4. Supporting youth with mental health and addictions

In addition to the recommendations listed above, a mapping exercise will be completed in 2021 to map all programs currently offered in the region. A focus on Equity Diversity Inclusion and Indigenization (EDII) will be introduced.  There will be a focus on data collection on issues facing youth who are racialized or belong to minority groups and programs for youth who are indigenous or racialized.

If you are interested in learning more about the work being done in the community to prevent and end youth homelessness, visit


For the past 20 years, United Way volunteer teams have shown their local love and helped agencies with gardening, renovations, and more at the annual Day of Caring. In 2021, the United Way will be adapting the Day of Caring to allow for different opportunities, ensuring health and safety protocols are followed.

This year’s Day of Caring is June 11th, 2021. Workplace volunteers and community members are encouraged to donate items through a donation collection drive of items like food or gently used clothing.

You could also assemble hygiene, food or clothing kits that will be collected at drop off locations throughout the city and then distributed through agencies. We encourage community members to get creative – get kids involved, send an inspirational message to a recipient and decorate your kit.  There are kit options – for people in shelters or on the street, personal hygiene kits, food preparation kits– you can pick any or all that appeal to you. m

Also, new this year, you can make a ‘day of caring’ donation to support an agency with a day’s worth of program funding with everything from providing meals to seniors to supporting a night of emergency shelter.

For more details, visit


Thank you! Your support continues to change the lives of so many impacted by this pandemic. Thank you for your continued. You can always stay up to date by following our social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and of course, you can find videos at and regular updates on our website at

Take care. Stay safe and well!  

Bhavana Varma
President & CEO | United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington

417 Bagot Street | Kingston, ON | K7K 3C1 |
T: 613-542-2674 Ext.1101 | C: 613-929-4828 | Direct: 613-542-4751 |