211 is a new 24/7 helpline expanding across Ontario.
On Monday (Oct. 18), 211 services officially will launch for Rainy River District residents and be available through two access points—a three-digit phone number (2-1-1) and its website at www.211north.ca
Both the phone and website connect people to programs and services that can help them with a multitude of challenges that could range from finding employment services, utility and rent assistance, to accessing emergency food programs.
211 is free to call, confidential, and multilingual.
“211 has changed the way Northern Ontarians access information,” said Marie Klassen, executive director, 211 Northern Region in Thunder Bay.
“Instead of annoying phone menus or impersonal automatic attendants, 211 callers speak directly to a certified information and referral specialist,” she noted.
“By combining the human touch of live-answer with modern phone and web technology, 211 is able to provide callers with award-winning, high-quality customer service.
“We anticipate that ongoing consultations with our First Nations’ neighbours will help to uncover the benefits of 211, particularly for residents in remote communities,” Klassen added.
“We know that the easy accessibility of 211 helps many families find financial assistance to avoid a utility cut-off, or even access health care resources,” said Fiona Karlstedt, president of the Lakehead Social Planning Council in attendance at the soft launch of 211 in Atikokan this past Wednesday.
“This often changes their lives for the better,” Karlstedt added.
“We may be few, far apart, but truly connected through 211.”
“This Ontario 211 Services Corp.’s expansion into the north will give more Ontarians instant telephone access to local social services information,” echoed Community and Social Services minister Madeleine Meilleur.
“This service will benefit all Ontarians, especially families in crisis who need to access community services, new Canadians who need information to adapt to a new home, or parents searching for local services for their children,” she noted.
“The single window of access to local non-emergency services provided by 211 will be an invaluable resource to my constituents,” said Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty.
“Congratulations to the Lakehead Social Planning Council and its local data partner, the Northwest Community Legal Clinic, on the launch of 211 in the District of Rainy River.”
The Ontario government has committed more than $13 million over four years for the Ontario 211 Services Corp. to expand the 211 hotline province-wide by 2011-12 with the help of various community partners.
From 2012 onward, as announced in the December, 2008 “Poverty Reduction Strategy Report,” the government will provide $4 million annually to maintain the 211 service.