May 31, 2023


What Makes 211 Different

211 is not an agency, but a national public utility designed to serve as the “front-door” access to community, social, health and government services. 

  • It’s a three-digit telephone number assigned by the CRTC for public information and referral. Three-digit telephone numbers (e.g. 511, 911) are not assigned to organizations, but assigned for a purpose deemed of universal social value.
  •  In Canada 211 has grown to reach 60% of residents (  Service in Nova Scotia and Ontario is provide-wide, with increasing service availability in Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nunavut.  In the United States 211 now reaches 93% of residents (
  •  211 contact centres are accredited through AIRS the professional membership association for community information and referral organizations in the United States and Canada.  Accreditation provides objective evidence of achievement across 28 standards, measured against 221 quality indicators.
  • 211 is free to call, 24/7, bilingual, multilingual and has no geographical boundaries. 211’s Community Navigators are accessible by email, and chat and text access channels are planned.

211 Ontario Structure

Ontario 211 Services is an NGO which governs the 211 Ontario system.  It is the transfer payment agency for the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services and oversees system development activities and the coordination of service delivery by six integrated regional contact centres located in Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Collingwood, St. Catharines, Toronto and Windsor.

  • Each regional contact centre is responsible for service delivery, community resources maintenance, as well as developing and maintaining relationships with service providers within their service area.
  • Across the province thirty-six organizations called 211 data partners are contracted to provide and maintain localized community resources to the 211 Ontario system. This enables regional contact centres to ensure community resources are relevant across all communities in Ontario.

Community Navigators

211 Ontario’s Community Navigators are skilled in helping individuals, families and communities identify, understand and effectively use the programs that are part of the human service delivery system. Navigators help people better understand their problems and make informed decisions about possible solutions.  

  • Navigators advocate on behalf of those who need special support to ensure that people receive the benefits and services for which they are eligible.
  •  Navigators conduct follow up in situations where someone is at risk and/or vulnerable and the Navigator believes the person does not have the necessary capacity to follow through and resolve their problems. The Navigator will provide additional assistance in locating or accessing services when needed.
  •  Navigators are prepared to assess and meet the immediate, short-term needs of inquirers who are experiencing a crisis, including assistance for individuals threatening suicide, homicide or assault; suicide survivors; victims of domestic abuse or other forms of violence, child abuse/neglect or elder/dependent adult abuse/neglect; sexual assault survivors; runaway youth; or people experiencing a psychiatric emergency; people with a substance use disorder who are in crisis; survivors of a traumatic experience; and others in distress.
  •  During community emergencies, 211 Ontario’s Community Navigators can support an increase in requests for information and assistance, freeing up municipalities to direct resources to other activities.

 Community Resources

211 Ontario’s Resource Specialists manage a province-wide comprehensive inventory of over 60,000 community, social, health and government services, including details about the services provided and the conditions under which they are available.  The inventory is used internally by Community Navigators to identify available resources.

  • Community resources are also available to other human services organizations and the public at, as well as many custom online directories.
  •  211 Ontario’s Resource Specialists contact all listed organizations and programs at least annually to update their information, and they continually monitor news and social media for changes and additions to services.
  •  During community emergencies 211’s Resource Specialists collect information about new services that are established, specific relief and recovery services, as well as organizations that play a formal role is emergency and disaster response.  They monitor news and social media to keep abreast of information about new resources and changing situations, verifying all information before making it public.

Community Needs and Trends Reporting

211 Ontario collects, analyzes and reports insightful data concerning call details, caller demographics and website uses in ways that are useful to community partners. 

  • A secure, confidential system is used to provide a basis for describing requests for service, unmet needs, and identifying service gaps. Data collected includes information gathered during follow up calls and customer satisfaction surveys.
  •  During community emergencies 211 Ontario is prepared to produce reports regarding requests for disaster-related services and referral activity.