We all know to call 9-1-1 when there’s a life-threatening emergency, or when police, fire or paramedics are needed. But what about when we need mental health support, when we’re struggling to figure out how to apply for government support programs, or when we’re having trouble putting food on the table?
The need to make access to services and supports as easy and seamless as possible came sharply into focus at the start of the pandemic. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted those already vulnerable in communities across Canada, including seniors, people with disabilities, those with limited English language skills, and many others. Finding and accessing government and community supports must be made simple to ensure they don’t slip through the cracks in the system.
Over the course of the pandemic, it’s become clear that many Canadians – and many for the first time in their lives – need help to find help. 211 is an information and navigation service which supports people in finding and accessing supports to meet all of life’s challenges. Trained operators help callers find, and make sense of service information that is often buried on websites, social media channels, or spread throughout vast networks of partners and community leaders.
“Searching for help alone can be very overwhelming for many people. People with disabilities, seniors, people with low-literacy, or those with limited English language skill may find it difficult to use the internet or apps to search for support. 211 service, especially by phone, helps people overcome many barriers to accessing services that can help.”
-Janelle Marietta, Executive Director,
United Way of Lethbridge & South Western Alberta
February 11 (2/11) is #211Day – a day for public awareness of the information-navigation service that helps to make the complex network of community and government social services more accessible. In acknowledgement, Lethbridge City Hall will be lit in red, and local organizations are encouraged to share news of the service which reaches more than 26 million Canadians. 211 maintains the largest database of government and social services in the country, which positions it well to be the one-stop-shop to ensure that people in need of support are not left behind.
The service is free, confidential, and available across Canada. Calls are answered 24/7 with interpretation in over 150 languages, making it accessible for more people. Users can also text 2-1-1, use the web chat function, or search the 211 database at http://www.211.ca.
Local charities and nonprofits are encouraged to contact 211 to get their programs and services listed for navigators to refer to. Organizations in Alberta can suggest a new listing at http://www.ab.211.ca
United Way invites and encourages community members to celebrate #211Day on February 11 by sharing this resource widely across social media, and by word-of-mouth to anyone who may be struggling. Like and follow @211Alberta on Twitter and Facebook. Help is available, and it starts with 2-1-1.
For more information, please contact United Way at 403-327-1700 or visit lethbridgeunitedway.ca