by Ethan Paquet
211 PEI was launched by the United Way of PEI with funding and support from the provincial government last year.
The 211 PEI navigation service is helping Islanders find the right community, social, government, and health supports, all for free anytime of the day or night.
Whether calling or texting 211, visiting the website at pe.211.ca, or emailing [email protected], this navigation service is now available. While callers must choose between English and French to connect with a Navigator, they can later access a translation service that can accommodate over 150 languages.
Amy MacManus is the 211 Service and Data Coordinator. She says the service is a one-stop shop to connect Islanders with virtually any information they might need. “We get calls for everything from the weather forecast to crisis and mental health calls.”
211 helps people find services related to COVID-19, employment and training, addictions and mental health, food resources, housing, education, financial assistance, legal, transportation, violence and abuse resources, and the list goes on.
The Data Coordinators stay on top of websites, news releases, and articles to ensure the Navigators are equipped with the most recent information. “While this information might be easy to find online for some, it can be stressful and time consuming to find something when you’re not sure where to turn,” says Amy.
“The goal is to help people navigate the services out there. It is not just for when you are in crisis, it is for when you do not know where to turn, or you do not want to spend a lot of time looking for something. Just reach out to us and we will take away that stress for you.”
When calling, you select your preferred language and are then connected to a Navigator who works to find the resources best suited to the caller. Information provided by the caller is confidential, and any requested information is only used to determine what nearby services the caller needs to connect with.
The success of 211 PEI to date
By early February 2021, 211 PEI had received more than 1,500 calls, and has had more than 15,000 unique visitors to the website.
The service is also there to help those looking to help others in their lives. “Someone called on behalf of someone they knew who was in immediate need of overnight shelter,” Amy remembers. “The Navigator spent over a half hour on the phone with the caller and was able to provide information to help the individual in need get shelter for that night, referrals for longer-term housing solutions and programs, as well as career development information and
programs so the person could look at upgrading their skills or where they wanted to go career wise.”
Amy knows first-hand how useful the service is because she has used it herself. She was trying to help a family member in need of in-home blood collection, but her web searches came back with nothing. “I couldn’t find information out there, so I called 211 to ask if there were any services for blood collection.”
Once provided with the information, it is up to the caller to take those first steps, but the Navigator will provide further help to those who do not seem willing to make those calls.
“It is all determined over the course of the conversation. The Navigator will not end the call knowing the person might not reach out.
“Callers can also request to receive the information by email, if it’s easier for them, because it’s hard to keep track of everything when given multiple referrals.”
Amy says the service is not trying to replace other services already in place. Instead, they hope to help people find the right service they need so people do not feel powerless. “We aim to be that first door to get you that service. 211 is for everyone, and there is no wrong call. If you do not know where to turn, give us a call. We are here to help 24/7.”
For more information about the service, email [email protected]