Every year on February 11, the United Way Centraide network celebrates 211 Day to raise awareness and accentuate the importance of the 211 service in our communities. In 2022, as inflation exacerbated existing economic strain, causing increased needs for food access and security, higher energy costs, and decreased housing affordability, United Way Centraide Canada’s 211 helpline has become more vital than ever to connect people to the services they need. The pandemic and subsequent economic downturn have put many people in the position of needing support for the first time in their lives.
According to data collected by United Way Centraide Canada and 211 operators across the country, needs related to counseling services increased by 34% in the first 6 months of the previous year in comparison to the previous 6-month. In addition, needs related to housing and food increased by 19% in the first 6 months of 2022, compared to the same 6-month period in 2021.
As we continue to navigate this period of economic strain, 211’s role as Canada’s primary source of information on government and community-based, non-clinical health and social services is invaluable. Recently, as many community organizations go through major changes while on their journeys to recovery from Covid-19, 211 fills the gap to help people navigate the complex network of support. For example, after the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) ended, 211 saw an increase of inbound calls as people sought ways to continue to receive financial support.
As proud founding partners for 211, United Way Centraide Canada’s goal is to increase awareness for the service and make it available to all communities across Canada. The 211 database has the largest inventory of Canada’s community and government services and benefits, making it uniquely positioned to support emergency response and management efforts, and equitable recovery. Every day, the helpline provides personalized navigation support to people in vulnerable circumstances, including seniors, newcomers, Indigenous communities, and more.
As many landmarks and monuments across the country turn their lights red in a “United Glow” to support 211 Day, it is also important to shine a light on all people in need, reassure them that the help starts here, and encourage them to make the call.