February 28th, 2024

211 providing a connection to vital services


By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on February 9, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The United Way Lethbridge and South Western Alberta is raising awareness about 2-1-1, a service that provides support to residents in multiple areas of life.

February 11 has been designated 211 Day.

In a recent release, the United Way states that 211 is a free and confidential service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to connect people to non-clinical and social services across the country.

Executive director of United Way Lethbridge and South Western Alberta Jaci Zalesak says that 211 fills the gap to help people navigate through challenging times.

“As we see an increase to the cost of living, people need assistance more than ever and sometimes they don’t know where to turn for help,” says Zalesak.

She adds that every day the 211 helpline provides support to people in vulnerable circumstances including people experiencing home evictions, searching for daycare information, addiction supports, 2SLGBTQIA+ supports, mental health referrals and many more.

“Locally we are seeing more referrals through 211 and we are thankful this call centre is available 24-7,” says Zalesak.

The service is accessible through phone, chat, text, and web in more than 150 languages and provides a guided and trusted pathway to care and resources. People can dial 211 to connect to community services and be connected to a trained professional who will listen to their needs and help them find the right information and resources, according to the release.

“With government programs changing regularly, people appreciate the fact that 211 is a simple number to connect and talk to someone about the ever-changing maze of information and have someone help sort through their unique situation,” reads the release.

It adds that housing and mental health related issues along with challenges faced by many across the country are amplified by needs identified in 211 contacts.

Between January and June last year, 43,437 housing or shelter related needs were expressed during 211 contacts, which represents a 22 per cent increase from the previous six-month period between July and December 2022, and a 25 per cent increase from the same period between January and June in 2021.

“As well 44,212 mental health and substance use disorder related needs were expressed during 211 contacts between January and June 2023, which represents a nine per cent increase from the previous six-month period between July and December 2022, and a 26 per cent increase from the same period between January and June 2021,” reads the release.

In 2022 service partners responded to 630,000 contacts by phone, text, chat and email across Canada to the 211 network according to the release.

When visiting the 211 website users can access information based on location or proximity, and they can sort the results by best match, proximity or alphabetically.

They can also search by featured service categories that include Children and families, crisis resources, disability supports, disaster resources, employment, financial supports, food and basic needs, government, homelessness, housing, Indigenous peoples, legal, mental health supports, newcomers to Canada, seniors and older adults, volunteer, youth, and violence and abuse.

While on the website, 211 offers the option of safety exit, which is a permanent feature that stays in the same place even while scrolling through the website, and once clicked immediately sends the web browser to a different site.

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