211 Ontario North turns 10 years old

The social services referral line handles more than 30,000 calls each year, and its web site has received more than 6 million hits.

The social services referral line handles more than 30,000 calls each year

211 Ontario North is celebrating its 10th anniversary. (Bryan Labby/CBC )

211 Ontario North is celebrating its 10th anniversary as the one-stop referral line for social services in northern Ontario.

More than 30,000 people call 211 Ontario North each year, said the Lakehead Social Planning Council's director of services, Marie Klassen, and more than six million people have accessed its web site since the service was established on Feb. 11, 2008. 

Around a quarter of a million people call 211 each year province-wide. 

What's more, the statistics gathered on its usage help inform social programs in the city, Klassen said.

"We had a call from someone who works most of the week and can't access a food bank because of the hours that he or she may work," she added. "So we put out a report, and one of the churches decided that Sunday would be a good day for them to open their doors to provide a bit of a food bank during their service."

Celebratory open house Friday

Klassen hopes the data from the line will continue to help existing agencies close more gaps in services, she said.

211 service in the north began in Thunder Bay and now covers the territory from Sudbury and Sault Ste-Marie to Kenora and Fort Frances.

Each year, it ranks the most requested services.

"Our priority call used to be health, mainly because a lot of people still didn't have their own physicians," Klassen said. 

Common calls these days come from people looking for help with caregiving for aging parents, finding financial aid for low income people and accessing mental health and addictions services, she added.

Recently, a lot of people are also looking for free income tax clinics, something the LSPC itself provides, she added. 

The Lakehead Social Planning Council will hold an open house Friday afternoon to celebrate 211's 10th anniversary.

The event takes place from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the LSPC offices in Victoriaville Mall.