211 zooms in on social service help

This image is no longer available

Ontario’s boomers are learning that 211 is the easiest way to zoom in on a challenge and find the solutions in their community. 211 is Ontario’s free helpline for information and referral to thousands of social and human services.

An easy to remember phone number, 2-1-1, is answered live by caring professionals trained to assess needs, navigate through a large database, and select services and programs right for each caller.

Calls to 211 cover a wide range from basic or urgent needs to service clubs or recreation activities. For example, a senior with cancer was behind on her utility bills. She was referred to the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and Ontario Works Discretionary Benefits. She received some financial help that covered part of the outstanding balance and she was able to refinance her mortgage to better live within her means at a later date.

211’s referrals can also empower seniors to become better connected to their community or family. In Simcoe County, the Home for Life program is using senior volunteers to help frail seniors find supports to stay in their own home, exercise with the S.M.A.R.T. fitness program from the Victorian Order of Nurses and is training seniors to set up computer technologies for other seniors, like Internet, email or Skype.

A caring community can also call 211 when they suspect someone is in trouble but don’t know where to turn. Recently, bank employees were worried about a regular customer who was becoming forgetful and they knew the customer did not have family support close by. 211 told the bank about Family Services Windsor-Essex for advocacy and support and that the Windsor Police could provide a well-being check, if needed.

Needs for services can vary by time of year and from region to region. In rural areas, snow removal and finding government services are common issues. In a major city, it might be finding a housing option close to their regular hospital, or finding affordable programs for grandkids when they come to stay.

In the last year, 211 has partnered with several organizations to improve awareness of community-based help available for an aging population to maintain independence and a good quality of life.  A partnership with the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse ensures a senior at risk is transferred to the Senior Safety Line seamlessly. 211 is also working with the Alzheimer Society of Ontario with their Finding Your Way program. This program makes it easier for someone to find their local Alzheimer program for support. 211’s easy-to-remember phone number provides seniors and their families with an easy way to find the right services close to home.

211 provides information about social, community, legal, financial, health and government services in Ontario. It’s available 24/7, 365 days a year and in over 150 languages.

With more than 530,000 calls last year, almost 200,000 were from zoomers looking for services for themselves, their loved ones or a neighbour they check in on.

To find out more: Call 2-1-1 or visit www.211ontario.ca for access to more than 60,000 programs and services.