On December 21, 2020 the provincial government announced $12.5 million of funding for 15 high-needs communities in Ontario to help deliver key interventions in neighbourhoods that were hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These interventions were to include community outreach and education, increased access to COVID-19 testing and wraparound support using a case management approach. Flemingdon Health Centre (FHC), a member of the East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) Ontario Health Team, was named the Lead Agency for East Toronto. This project came to be known as East Effort – Community Covid Response Project (or ‘East Effort’).
East Effort focused its work in Crescent Town/Taylor-Massey, Warden Woods, Oakridge, Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park – communities that were identified as being disproportionately and severely impacted by COVID. These neighbourhoods shared many socio demographic similarities including having high percentages of low-income families, multigenerational households and many newcomers to Canada.
The East Effort initiative adopted an inter-sectoral approach to engage with partners and stakeholders from diverse sectors to take rapid action for COVID relief. An East Effort Steering Committee was created and included staff and community voices to guide the project and explicitly hold partners accountable to anti-oppressive practices.
A prime sub-initiative of East Effort included recruitment of Community Health Ambassadors (or CHAs). CHAs are neighbourhood-embedded residents who provide hyperlocal outreach and direct COVID supports to community members in need. The trusted connections to the communities CHAs live in were critical to the extent of their overall reach and impact in keeping neighbourhoods safe.