75 Years: United Way Ottawa's Story

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1950s / FOCUS ON YOUTH

Both the country and the city mature during the 1950s. Sociological forces such as the single-generation nuclear family and women’s desire for economic autonomy begin to influence social and economic policy. For example, the need for more housing and social services programs results in the 1951 federal Old Age Security Act; the federal government’s enactment of the Fair Employment Practices Act in 1953 and the Female Employees Equal Pay Act in 1956 for female federal public servants are a precursor to further reforms related to the hiring of women in all sectors.

Reports published by the Welfare Council of Ottawa (successor to the Ottawa Council of Social Agencies) support this new reality. During this time, the Council is involved in planning work around issues relating to housing, homecare, single mothers, seniors, disabilities, mental health and poverty. Through its annual red feather campaign, UW/CO provides funding to new agencies, such as the Visiting Homemakers Association, that offer services in these key areas.

Successful campaigns early on also mean that UW/CO can now support upwards of 24 agencies, including the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

But prosperity is short-lived. In 1957 a plunging economy puts the country into a serious recession. Ottawa’s unemployment rate doubles, to more than seven per cent. In response, Mayor Charlotte Whitton beefs up the city’s welfare program and has 800 low-rental housing units built. In an attempt to address social welfare needs, UW/CO adopts a priority rating system for new or expanded programs by member agencies and regularly reviews programs delivered by agencies that wish to receive funding in the future.

The 1958 death of a 20-year-old in a street fight highlights another emerging issue. With the support of UW/CO, the newly formed Youth Services Bureau begins to offer resources and services to troubled youth. UW/CO also starts funding the Boy Scouts Association and Patro Girls’ Club.

UW/CO's reach during the decade: • contributes to creation of Youth Services Bureau as a three-year demonstration project by the city, to monitor and respond to local challenges concerning youth • extends member agency services and fundraising campaigns to Nepean and Gloucester Townships, and soon assesses the needs and resources presented by this amalgamation.


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