Message from the Executive Director and Board Chair
Barbara Kieley, Board Chair
On behalf of the Board and staff of Ontario 211 Services, we are pleased to share a summary of our activities and impact from the past year. We also take this opportunity to celebrate the remarkable dedication of those who deliver 211 services in Ontario.
Throughout the past year, we observed a growing need for essential services such as food banks, health services and housing support. The heightened demand can be attributed to the rising cost of housing and groceries which have left many Ontarians struggling to make ends meet. See our data dashboard for a fuller picture of Ontarians needs and unmet needs. Also concerning is that our 211 navigators have increasingly heard from people struggling with their mental health, many of whom do not have access to health benefits. Clinical mental health support is often out of reach.
In our report, we highlight the most common needs encountered by 211 clients and the challenges we face in meeting certain needs due to limited-service availability or additional barriers that prevent marginalized groups from accessing them. Our frontline staff turn over every rock to find solutions for our clients and often advocate on their behalf to help them address their needs. But when no immediate solution exists, unmet needs are tracked and reported.
We want to recognize and thank all the regional service delivery partners and their teams for their unwavering commitment to answering the call. It is not an easy job in today’s complex world, but you do it with compassion, professionalism and concern for each and every person who reaches out to 211 – you put the human in human services.
We also want to express our sincere thanks to our funders, whose strong ongoing commitment ensures the continuity of this important social utility for Ontarians. We are deeply appreciative of the support provided by Ontario's Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, United Ways in Ontario, and municipalities across the province. We are also grateful to partner with several ministries and provincial organizations for the delivery of specialized data and navigation services.
Finally, a big thank you to the staff team and the dedicated Board of Directors at Ontario 211 Services. Your guidance, expertise and support over the last year has been nothing short of incredible.
We are focused on the future – enhancing our 211 system to deliver an effective and efficient service that meets the evolving needs of Ontarians in a post-COVID world. From the implementation of a Community Panel with individuals who have lived experience that can inform our service design and delivery, to the development of new digital solutions, to increasing the integration of services through data and service partnerships, to embarking on new anti-racism initiatives that will help us ensure equitable access to services and supports for marginalized communities. We will continue to partner with others to help vulnerable Ontarians access the help they need to live well.
Barbara Kieley, Board Chair
These numbers represent all of Ontario. To review needs and unmet needs in your community, visit our data dashboard.
Ontario 211 Services develops partnerships to advance an integrated human service system. With our 211 Regional Service Providers, we collaborate to ensure broad and equitable access to community services and maximize the use of existing resources.
Below are just a few examples of partnerships in different areas of the province. Learn more about local and provincial partnerships here.
Toronto Community Crisis Service Pilot
The City of Toronto, Toronto Police Service, 211 Central and four community partners are piloting the Toronto Community Crisis Service (TCCS) program.
The pilot launched in March 2022 in four regions and seeks to provide a community-based response to non-emergency mental health crisis calls. By working together, these organizations can provide culturally safe mental health supports. The pilot needs to be responsive to local priorities and the system's complexity as residents face navigating Toronto's health, social and justice services.
A recent market research campaign found that awareness of the pilot had increased by 22%. It also found greater awareness and trust in Black and Indigenous communities with the support of the 211 Services community helpline.
TCCS dispatches via 211 have now exceeded those transferred from 911 – a great achievement and a positive indicator of the pilot's success. Since launch, 211 has made over 8000 dispatch calls for the pilot, and there is a strong commitment to expand the pilot city-wide by July 2024.
Local Immigration Partnership Partners With 211 South West
The Windsor Essex Local Immigration Partnership is the region’s lead agency coordinating support for migrant workers and refugees. As part of this work, they created an English and Spanish app using 211 data and crowd-sourced information to help meet the service needs of this community – notably temporary migrant workers working in the agriculture and greenhouse sectors in the area.
Ottawa Police Services Fraud Squad Team Up With 211 East
Ottawa Police Services and 211 East have partnered to share fraud prevention messages. They are running a joint outreach campaign across the region, including presenting to seniors’ groups across Eastern Ontario. More sessions will run in the Fall of 2023 and Spring of 2024.
Affordable Access to Transit in Thunder Bay
The City of Thunder Bay and 211 North are partnering on the "Affordable Access to Transportation and Recreation" project – a three-year pilot launched in July 2023 to reduce poverty and enhance accessibility to the community's resources. They hope to do this by providing reduced transit fairs and recreation fees. The objective is to enhance an individual's mobility and help them feel empowered, enabling more residents to participate in local social and economic opportunities.
211 North intake staff will receive, process, and approve applications for the Affordable Access Pilot program as the public point of contact for the application process.
Ontario residents contact 2-1-1 looking for community services when experiencing challenges. 211 refers them to community programs that can help them. Below are several snapshots of the referrals we provide. We help residents find the right support for their situation.
International Student Seeks Mental Health Support
A young adult contemplating suicide reached out to 211 Services for support. Following a risk assessment by a 211 Community Navigator, it was determined that the caller was not at imminent risk of harming themselves but needed counselling help as soon as possible. The navigator referred them to a 24-hour distress line and two agencies that provide free counselling and offered to follow up with caller. The caller agreed, so they set up a time for a follow up.
On the follow-up call, the caller shared that they were no longer thinking of self-harm but were still searching for in-person counselling options as the agencies suggested by 211 were only doing virtual sessions. They also noted that as an international student, they had no family or emotional support system in Ontario. The navigator was able to provide the caller with a referral to South Asian Canadians Health and Social Services (SACHSS) for additional support.
211 Community Navigator Offers a Judgement-Free Space
An older client called 211 and expressed feelings of depression and hopelessness. They disclosed that they were living with bipolar disorder and struggling with thoughts of suicide. After a safety assessment, the 211 Navigator offered to connect them with the Distress Centre. However, the caller declined the transfer, saying their past experiences of feeling judged by social services was a barrier to seeking help. By the end of the call, they said that they felt better and that talking with 211 had helped him out of a dark space. The navigator reassured the client that if they changed their mind, they could call 211 back at any time and offered a follow-up call which was accepted. During the follow up, the client thanked the navigator for not judging them and confirmed that they had connected with their social worker to work on plans to improve their situation.
211 Helpline Empowers Caller to Ask for Help
A caller had found themselves in a challenging situation after recently losing their job and was struggling with the overwhelming burden of unemployment. They were hesitant to ask for help, driven by a sense of pride. They had been waiting over a month for Employment Insurance and needed financial support to manage their bills. Seeking support, they reached out to 211. The Navigator was empathetic and identified that the caller needed short-term help with their utility bill, as their family was helping them with food. The Navigator encouraged the caller to contact the utility financial assistance program, walked them through the application process, and offered to check in later.
During the first follow-up by 211, the caller expressed feeling too depressed to follow through on the utility referral and continued to have difficulty asking for help. With the Navigator’s support and encouragement, the caller felt more empowered and committed to making the call. Once again, the Navigator offered to check in with the caller at a later time.
During the second follow-up, the caller confirmed that they were now receiving Employment Insurance, thanks to the support of the utility and rent assistance programs that 211 had connected them with. The caller also shared their excitement about securing a job interview and was thankful to have connected with 211.
211 Connects Senior with Agency for a Memorable Christmas
A senior, coping with the challenges of living with cancer and managing on a limited income, was looking for a Christmas turkey. Their poor health meant they couldn’t carry a heavy turkey on public transportation or wait in long lines for a giveaway. The 211 Navigator referred the senior to an agency that could deliver them a turkey voucher, fruit, and vegetables. The agency had also noticed that the caller’s kitchen table had broken legs and loaned them a table while the broken one was repaired. The voucher and food allowed them to have an enjoyable holiday dinner in the company of their friends and nephew. The caller passed along a message saying it was their best Christmas ever.