More people turn to 211 as needs increase - United Way Alberta Capital Region

More people turn to 211 as needs increase

February 10, 2023


On February 11, United Ways across Canada marked 211 Day to raise awareness
and highlight 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’s 211 helpline became 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.

211 Alberta is a collaboration between United Way of the Alberta Capital Region, and our frontline partners Canadian Mental Health Association-Edmonton and Distress Centre Calgary.

In 2022, 211 Alberta was contacted nearly 89,000 times by people across the province who needed support. Outside of organizational and community services, most needs included housing and shelter, income support, and mental health and substance use disorder services.

Needs related to housing and shelter increased 35 per cent in the first half of the year, compared to the first half of 2021. Needs relating to mental health and substance use disorder services increased 30 per cent between the first six months of 2022, compared to 2021; however, 211 Alberta saw a slight decrease of 5 per cent for needs relating to income supports.

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 due to the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, 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.

211 Alberta recently received funding from the Government of Canada via the Government of Alberta to improve service co-ordination with the wrap-around supports that gender-based violence survivors need, including counselling, health care, and legal services, among many others. The provincial government also recently invested in 211 Alberta’s capacity when it comes to helping people find resources related to addictions and mental health 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.

Locally, 211 Alberta maintains a database of more than 35,000 community and government services and resources. Additionally, it is the only 211 in Canada that is co-located with crisis lines.

Every day, the helpline provides personalized navigation support to people in vulnerable circumstances, including seniors, newcomers, Indigenous people, and more.

As many landmarks and monuments across the country turn their lights red in a “United Glow” to support 211 Day — including the High Level Bridge and Alberta Legislature in Edmonton — 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.