Published on September 21, 2021

211: Help Starts Here

An initiative of the United Way, 211 is a free, confidential service that connects people in need to a wide range of community, social, health and government services. Everything from a family’s struggle to put food on the table and a parent’s worry about their child’s mental health, to a senior’s feelings of isolation and an individual’s access to shelter and financial assistance, 211 is an accessible one-stop-shop.

“In addition to helping people find local resources, 211 promotes community engagement, strengthens community ties and aims to reduce barriers in accessing services,” says Kelsey Dunsire, City of St. Albert Community Support Worker. “While the 211 service officially launched in select areas of Alberta in 2004, it officially became available province-wide during the summer of 2020.” 

An essential service, 211 Alberta can be accessed 24/7 by phone, text and online chat – in over 170 languages.

“Knowing that it can be difficult to reach out for help, 211 offers a variety of communication methods to ensure that people are able to connect with someone in a timely manner, when needed,” explains Dunsire. “A 211 community resource specialist will connect people to information and referrals for a variety of needs, if required, on the same call in addition to offering follow-up check-ins.”

This service is not a replacement of local information, but rather works with local agencies to ensure residents get the help they need.

While 211 Alberta stats are publicly available, key results for St. Albert in 2020 are as follows:

  • Total reports (phone, text, online chat): 359
    • 82 were COVID-19 related
  • Total needs identified: 478
  • Referrals: 620
  • Follow-ups: 29
  • Demographics: 
    • Age: majority did not disclose
    • Gender: 197 female, 110 male, 51 did not disclose
  • The top reasons people contacted 211:
    • Organizational/community services information
    • Mental health and substance use disorder/mental health assessment and treatment
    • Basic needs/housing
    • Individual and family life/support services
    • Income support and employment/public sssistance programs

The 211 helpline has been available in parts of Canada for almost 20 years. However, as part of its COVID-19 response, the Government of Canada provided funding to the United Way Centraide Canada which expanded service nationwide.  

To access 211 and a variety of community resources, call 2-1-1, text INFO to 211 or live chat at ab.211.ca.


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Last edited: September 22, 2021