211 - the number to dial - “Help is just three numbers away. The 211 service connects the community to a knowledgeable support worker

By Staff

February 6th, 2024



February 11 (2/11) is 211 Day across North America. It is a day of national public awareness, in partnership with United Way Centraide Canada, to highlight the important information navigation service.

211 is Canada’s primary source of information for government and community-based, nonclinical health and social services. 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,” says United Way Halton & Hamilton President and CEO, Brad Park. “Help is just three numbers away. The 211 service connects the community to a knowledgeable support worker, helping people access local social services, including programs supported by United Way Halton & Hamilton.”

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. 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 in Halton & Hamilton 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 over 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, compassionate 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.

Residents are reminded that they should always call 911 for a life-threatening emergency, when a property is in danger, or a crime is in progress that requires the police, fire or paramedics.

To learn more about 211 services, please visit 211ontario.ca.

Make the Right Call

Help is three digits away.

 911 is the number to call for life-threatening emergencies

988 is the number to call if someone is thinking or talking about suicide or death, or has a plan to end their life.

211 is the number to call for information on community-based health, social and government services. It is the number to call when you need help but aren’t sure where to turn.

In large cities, 311 is the number established to access information about municipal services (such as by-law enforcement, road repairs, garbage collection, municipal recreation programs, property taxes, etc.)

411 is the number that residents call for business or residential listings (phone book/yellow pages).

811 is the number that residents call for help finding health information and services.

Quick Facts about 211:

 2001 – In response to the application submitted by United Way Centraide and its partners, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) assigned 211 as the toll-free helpline for information about community, social, health and government services.

2002 – The first 211 service opened in Toronto.

2004 – 211 launched in Edmonton by United Way of the Alberta Capital Region and the Support Network.

2005 – 211 launched in Calgary by United Way of Calgary and the Distress Centre Calgary.

2013 – 211 launched for residents of Nova Scotia (February).

By summer 2020, 211 service was available in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and most of Quebec with partial online service in Manitoba.

Dec. 2020 – 211 achieved full service across all of Canada.

2021 – 17% increase in 211 interactions via calls, texts and chats over 2021.

2022 – Strong indicators of 211’s importance in the lives of Canadians as inflation and economic aftereffects of the pandemic weigh heavy. See 2022 data above.

2022 – 211 service partners respond to 630,000 contacts by phone, text, chat, and email.

About United Way Halton & Hamilton

United Way Halton & Hamilton (UWHH) is committed to leading measurable, impactful change by identifying the most challenging issues in our community, and bringing together people and resources to address those issues. We connect volunteers with local needs, and offer training and operational support to local charities. Along with our network of partners and experts, UWHH conducts research and works with key stakeholders to generate support for the not-for- profit sector. Each dollar raised is invested right back into the community to address the long- term recovery of its vital social safety net. Last year, UWHH helped 143,562 residents across Halton and Hamilton, who relied on 106 United Way-supported programs for life changing services.


About 211:

 211 is a helpline available by phone, chat or online search that helps Ontario residents navigate the complex network of government, health, community and social service quickly and easily, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with interpretation in over 150 languages. 211 is supported by the Province of Ontario, United Ways and some municipalities across the province.





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