What’s the 211?

By Diana Lyuber

You can add another helpful three-digit telephone number to your speed-dial. 211 is Calgary’s newest information and referral system for locating the right community, social, or government service, free of charge.

“If you’ve lost a number, call 411; if you’ve lost your child, call 911; but if you’re feeling lost, call 211,” joked Calgary Olympian and Co-Master of Ceremonies Christine Nordhagen during the number’s official launch on Tue., Jan. 11.

The launch included speakers from United Way of Calgary, the City of Calgary, and the Distress Centre, which together provide the funds, support, and maintenance required to breathe life into the 211 initiative.

“We are very proud of 211. This is going to help people get services more quickly, more efficiently,” said United Way of Calgary President Ruth Ramsden-Wood. “211 is really an important initiative for our agencies and for our community.”

Because of the sheer number of resources available in Calgary, it can be overwhelming and frustrating trying to figure out which ones to call. 211 provides a single access point by which a wide-range of people can connect to an even wider range of resources, helping pair problems to their respective solutions.

“An easy to remember phone number like 211 [assists] a very large demographic of people,” said Deputy Mayor Diane Colley-Urquhart. “And 211 isn’t just a referral service, it is an effective community planning tool that will help us make our city even greater.”

People of all ages, backgrounds, and needs can benefit from 211. A family searching for child-care services in their community, a single-parent facing eviction, or a recent immigrant seeking language and employment assistance are just some examples.

Dialing the number will connect you directly to a referral specialist equipped with current and accurate information, with service available in 150 different languages.

“We have already experienced calls in Farsi, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Spanish, and English,” boasted Distress Centre Board Chair Arthur Rick.

Calgary joins Edmonton and Toronto in providing the 211 service; several other provinces, including Quebec and Newfoundland, are currently working on implementing the number.

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