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A new national, toll-free and confidential telephone service has been made available by United Way Canada since October, and organizers hope it will help residents better access non-profit organizations.

The 211 phone service, provided by United Way Centraide, allows callers to reach a “navigator” to help connect them with information about licensed non-profit organizations.
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Judy Shum, national director of 211 and community partnerships for United Way Canada, said this week that the number 211 can be used by NWT residents to learn more about licensed non-profit charities and organizations. 

“How it works is you don’t need to know about a particular organization or service or name or service,” said Shum. “You may call and say, ‘I’m in a situation where I’m getting evicted, or I need to look for child care,’ but it all depends on a callers’ needs.”

The phone line has been available since October 2020 and is funded by the federal department of Employment and Social Development Canada as a tool for residents to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although there is a NWT Help Line – a crisis line to help residents deal with emergencies – 211 is for non-emergency purposes.

However, 211 can help connect with the crisis line if necessary, Shum said.

NWT calls are received by a “navigator” – similar to an operator – located at the Alberta/Canadian Mental Health Association branch office in Edmonton.

The navigators are trained to go through and maintain a database with information on non-profit organizations.

Shum said the service is still new and only 18 calls have come from the Northwest Territories, however, people have asked about issues related to Covid-19, including employment insurance, social assistance programs, food access, and utility service.

While funding has been made available to March 31, 2021, Shum said the aim is to have the phone line continue for residents, depending on how future funding arrangements can be made by United Way Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided a video presentation on Nov. 19 congratulating United Way Centraide for the launch of the 211 hotline.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided a video presentation on Nov. 19 which congratulated the United Way for its nationwide expansion of the phone number.

“Soon all Canadians will have access to this free and confidential way to navigate government and community-based services,” Trudeau said in the message, noting that it will help Canadians “coast-to-coast-to-coast” find assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Whether it’s a senior who is feeling isolated, or a worker who lost their job or a teenager who feels the mental health affects of being away from their friends, anyone can call 211,” Trudeau said.

Tracy St. Denis, chair of the United Way NWT, was not immediately available for comment.

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Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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