The Reaching Home Blog: United Way’s role in Reaching Home


My name is Julie Miller Rushton. I’m the Director of Community Grants here at United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island. The following post is part of my series addressing the federal government’s Reaching Home initiative, and how it’s working to first address, and then finally bring an end to homelessness in communities like Nanaimo and Cowichan.  

Thumbnail for SeriesWEB SIZE.jpgIn my first post about Reaching Home, I talked about the role of Community Advisory Boards (CABs):  

A CAB is a group of local and municipal governments and their agents, agency members from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations, as well as people who have experience being precariously housed and/or without a home. Using federal funding, they work together to make funding decisions and chart a path forward to end homelessness in their community.  

In Cowichan and Nanaimo, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island is an integral part of that work in its role as a Community Entity (CE). We administrate and facilitate the work of the CABs.  

Reaching Home has a lot to do with funding specific projects that CABs decide on. United Way already has infrastructure for drafting contracts for specific grants, monitoring those grants, receiving and synthesizing the data from any reports that are requested, and then wrapping that all together and feeding it back to the federal government.   

Because United Way is really good at that work, the federal government always gets a really clear view of what's happening in our communities.  

When we look at building community from a strength-based place, when it comes to United Way, that’s one of our strengths. So we put that forward for community use.  

But United Way is also good at bringing together various organizations to address a problem using all of our strengths. We already have deeply rooted connections within all of the communities in our region, both as funder and community developer, working alongside organizations to support vulnerable people. And we have a lot of other funding connections, so we can often tie the link that’s needed to get a project moving forward.  

This kind of strategy is called collective impact work. When we work within collective impact, there is the idea that no one owns anything, and everyone is a partner. And for this free-spirited work to happen, somebody needs to set the parameters.  

It is United Way CNVI’s job as the CE to uphold the parameters set out by the federal Reaching Home program.  

So Reaching Home parameters will say, for example, ‘You must provide support to Indigenous community parners’. We as the CE hold space open for that work to happen. How that work happens is up to that local CAB.   

The beautiful piece is that, with collective impact work, with a focus on collaboration and a focus on who is at the table, we are also ensuring that Indigenous partners have a really firmly rooted place within all contexts of this work.  

But, for all organizations to be willing to provide their strengths and work within a collective impact framework, there has to be trust. That is a role of the CE as well: to make sure that everything is transparent and done in culturally appropriate ways so that people trust processes, and then they can trust people.  

United Way is well-suited and passionate about fulfilling the role of the CE. 

Next post, we'll talk about creating greater understanding in community so that we are all ready to tackle the issue of homelessness.