Calling this number can help struggling Ontarians find immediate support

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Published February 7, 2024 at 12:28 pm

A lesser-known government service gets its moment in the spotlight on Feb. 11, which is 211 Day across Ontario and North America.

211 is Canada’s primary source of information for government and community-based, nonclinical health and social services and is being highlighted by United Way Canada.

The free and confidential service can be accessed in more than 150 languages, by phone, chat, text, and web. 211 helps connect people to the right information and services, making their pathway to care and resources a guided and trusted one.

“With the growing challenges posed by the cost-of-living pressures, more members of our community are reaching out for assistance. It can be quite overwhelming, especially for those who don’t know who they can turn to for support,” said Brad Park, United Way Halton & Hamilton president and CEO.

“Help is just three numbers away. The 211 service connects the community to a knowledgeable support worker, helping people access local social services.”

To help communities cope with increased financial affordability concerns and increased number of social services needs, many local governments have referred residents to 211 to find the help they need.

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Given its database is the largest inventory of Canada’s community services and government programs and benefits in the country, 211 is well positioned to help people access shelter and food, mental health support, financial counselling, and public safety information during emergencies.

In 2023, the top needs identified by 211 were housing, such as crisis, domestic violence and homeless drop-in shelters; health, such as support groups, diagnostic services and specialized care; and mental health, such as support groups, counselling and crisis intervention hotlines.

In Halton and Hamilton, 211 received more than 7,000 contacts by phone, web chat and email in 2023, with adults (42 per cent) and older adults (13 per cent) making up the majority of clients.

By dialing 2-1-1, residents will reach a knowledgeable community navigator trained to listen and support them to find services for their acute needs and any underlying concerns. The navigator will connect them to local community services and programs and inform them of important government benefits and services they can access.

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