February 11th is 211 Day across Canada!

This year, for the first time, anyone living anywhere in Canada can pick up the phone and dial 2-1-1 to reach a Service Navigator for information on community-based health, social and government services in or near their community. The service is free, confidential, 24/7 in most of Canada and available in more than 150 languages.

It’s no coincidence that this major initiative was launched amidst the challenges Canadians are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. On October 15, 2020 the Government of Canada, in partnership with United Way Centraide Canada, announced funding to activate the nationwide expansion of 211. The government also announced funding to support existing 211 services experiencing surging demand.

The needs people expressed in calls with 211 revealed some of the acute symptoms of the COVID-19 lockdown measures on the lives of Canadians. Locally on Vancouver Island:

  • In April 2020, bc211 received 14 times more calls from Vancouver Island for food & meals, 1.5 times more calls related to income & financial assistance, and 11 times more calls for health, compared to January and February 2020.
  • bc211 also saw a boost of 194% more contacts (calls, text messages, email, webchats) from March to December 2020, compared to the previous year
  • In the second half of 2020, calls related to Mental Health increased by 32%, and calls for housing support by 35%
  • December 2020: Number of requests related to mental health increased by 222% compared to December 2019. Requests for income & financial assistance increased by 203%.

Throughout the pandemic, 211 has and will continue to provide Canadians with help navigating the support services available during this challenging time.

“…We are proud to support programs and services, like the 211 telephone line and online directory. With the ongoing pandemic, the 211 service is more important than ever, helping get information about community services to the Canadians who need it.” Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Ahmed Hussen.

“We’ve been proud to advocate for and support 2-1-1 on Vancouver Island since 2017,” said Mark Breslauer, CEO, United Way Greater Victoria. “Sometimes the greatest obstacle to get help is knowing where to start. Free, confidential help is just a call or a text away, something that is crucially important as we head into a second year of COVID-19.”

Since 2017, United Way Greater Victoria has championed the creation and expansion of 2‑1‑1 services. Knowing where to turn when you are faced with challenges in your life is not often simple. 211 helps people to navigate the system and find support quickly and easily, which takes the strain off agencies and other services like 911 who would otherwise be handling these calls.

With a national 211 system and growing awareness of the service, we can also begin to analyze data about the types of services people are looking for by region, or even neighbourhood, which will help us, community service agencies, government, and others to better serve the specific needs of people in those communities and across the country.

Tonight across the country, 39 landmarks across the country including the BC Legislature, BC Place, Calgary Tower,  Niagara Falls, and St. John’s City Hall, will light up in red to celebrate the day and remind Canadians of the availability of nationwide 211 service.