A 30-Minute Play-by-Play from the 211 South West Call Centre

  • Eleven calls answered by 211 I & R Specialist.
  • One family needs children’s winter coats.
  • One person’s gas was being turned off.
  • Two information calls.
  • Two people wanting to donate goods.
  • One person registering for an event.
  • Two people not knowing where to turn.
  • One person is prevented from going to the wrong service location.
  • One follow-up call is scheduled.

This is a play-by-play from one I&R Specialist at the 211 South West Call Centre in Windsor.

At a quick glance the calls seem simple, but reveal that almost half the callers wanted to prevent a crisis from happening. Like a family that cannot afford winter coats for their kids. In Windsor and Essex County, the Unemployed Help Centre collected, cleaned and distributed over 5,000 coats to children in need in the month of November.

A caller wanted to stop their gas from being turned off. 211 provided them with details of the three agencies that provide emergency financial assistance for covering utility bills.

A caller had heard that Goodfellows were soliciting food donations for their Christmas gift baskets. The caller had called the agency, but no one had called them back. 211 was able to reassure the caller that the phone lines were only staffed for a few hours a week, and provided the right times to call to reach someone.

A senior called to register for the Age-Friendly Windsor ‘Moving Ahead’ Forum. 211 took registration calls for this event. A man’s elderly father is in financial trouble but does not qualify for a home equity loan or typical financial assistance. 211 is able to provide information about four services that allow him to explore eligibility and options. A caller double checks where she needs to go to get a tax return done and discovers she was going to go to the wrong location. A wife is worried about her husband and marriage. 211 refers her to two agencies that provide marriage counselling and offers to follow up with her in a week.

211 staff are ‘experts’ on social services in the community. For the interaction to be effective, callers are encouraged to be frank about their individual circumstances, often delving into very personal issues. This enables a better referral by providing several helpful options. A crisis can often be prevented if people are willing to follow through with the referrals provided. In fact, 82% of 211 callers followed through on the referrals provided and 93% got the help they needed from the agency referred to.

The 211 South West Call Centre answers 211 calls for Windsor and Essex County, Oxford County, London and Middlesex County, Chatham-Kent, Sarnia and Lambton County and Elgin County. In 2011, 211 South West answered over 48,000 calls for the region.

211’s helpline is free, confidential and anonymous. Highly trained staff answer the phones live, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Dial 211 or search www.211ontario.ca.

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