211 Greater Montréal's year in review

by: Lucie Kechichian

211 Greater Montréal's year in review

Pressing needs as pandemic endures


Montréal, February 11th, 2022 — 211 Greater Montréal, an information and referral service towards socio-community resources in Greater Montréal, would like to use 211 Day, celebrated everywhere in North America, as an opportunity to publish its review of 2021. Thanks to its social analysis tool, available online at https://www.211qc.ca/donnees, it is possible to paint a picture of the social needs of people using our service. Needs that nearly two years after Québec declared a state of health emergency, are just as pressing.


An overview of call statistics

In 2021, 211 Greater Montréal received 44 715 requests for help via telephone, chat and e-mail.


In 2020, the number of requests for help from community resources skyrocketed, especially in March and April 2020, due to worry about the pandemic that was starting and the subsequent lockdown. However, if we compare with 2019, a pre-pandemic year, we still have an increase of 20 % in calls. A sure sign that 211 is getting more known by citizens of Greater Montréal and that even if that initial state of panic has passed, the needs themselves have remained pressing and stressful for the most vulnerable and the ones being in a vulnerable situation for the first time.


We also noted a sharp increase to our 211qc.ca website traffic. In 2021, there was 923 416 visits to our site, an increase of 29% from 2020. More than 684 000 users chose to get information about local available resources online.


A few highlights

  • Here are the 3 main social needs expressed by callers in 2021:
    • Housing (help for housing, emergency shelters...) is the first expressed need representing 16.8% of the requests for help. An increase of 20.8% from 2020. This accurately reflects the crisis experienced in Greater Montréal and the stress it has caused amongst citizens.
    • Food aid represents 12.4% of calls.
    • Personal, family and community support counts for 10.5% of calls and mainly concerns home care. A slight increase of 8% from 2020.
  • We also noted that mental health, at 5 196 requests for help, also had an increase of 10% from 2020. Mainly requests for assessments and treatment as well as therapeutic counseling.
  • Call statistics also indicate the specific needs of vulnerable seniors. Those 60 and over represent 40% of our callers and express basic needs, the main ones equally being home care and help for housing. They are also the age category that calls the most for food aid and health related questions mainly due to the pandemic which extended into 2021.
  • In 2021, 211 Greater Montréal counselors referred 4 850 organizations and distinct socio-community resources, an increase of 20% from 2020.


The evolution of the service

On December 31st, 2021, 211 Greater Montréal totaled about 160 000 requests for help received since its launch in 2018. There have been many notable additions to the service, particularly the launch of a chat service which was used by 3 200 people in its first year of service in 2021.

There has also been another notable change: the length of calls, which has increased by 45% since launching the service in 2018. The average length is now 6 minutes. The role played by our counselors is beyond that of information and referral. They now answer calls steeped in distress and anxiety and provide active listening to people that not only need resources, but a reassuring voice as well.


An established essential role

Since the start of the pandemic, the needs expressed by callers are basic ones. Thus, in 2020 and 2021, requests for food aid, housing, and family and personal support, among others, experienced a sharp increase. The 211 service now plays the essential role of social safety net in Greater Montréal by referring people to services and organizations as well as acting as a bridge between citizens, community organizations and Greater Montréal officials.

Also, in 2021, our team sat on many tables and committees which allowed us to present social analysis data to public health decision makers, officials, and emergency cells. Note, for example, the involvement of our team within the emergency committee of the City of Laval; our collaboration with the City of Montréal and the Office Municipal d’Habitation de la Ville de Montréal (OMHM) in response to the housing shortage during Opération 1er juillet; or even sharing data with the CISSS de Lanaudière. Our team is also working on a food security project with SAM (Système alimentaire montréalais). Thanks to funding from PAAQ (Programme Action Aînés du Québec), our counselors were able to identify vulnerable seniors with loss of autonomy and closely guide them towards resources. These non-exhaustive examples of agreements and partnerships with socio-community representatives show that 211 Greater Montréal is firmly established in its sector and continues to evolve, always for the benefit of the most vulnerable.


211 Day — Tool Kit

February 11th marks the celebration of 211 Day everywhere in North America. It is a day to make the service known and highlight its contributions to various communities. Many activities are planned in Canada and in the United States. In Montréal, the Olympic Stadium Tower will be illuminated in 211 Red in the evening, as a gesture of support.

Here is a link to download visuals or 211 tools that you can share on your social platforms:

Download visuals




Pierrette Gagné, Executive Director, Information and Referral Center of Greater Montréal and Manager of the 211 service.

"Once again, with the pandemic as a backdrop, the 211 social info-referral service proved its relevance more than ever. 211 positioned itself as an efficient information relay between municipalities, Santé publique and the CISSS and CIUSS by identifying unmet needs and offering support and essential follow-up services to vulnerable populations during times of crisis. Thank you to our partners for their unwavering support and especially to our team for all their hard work and dedication. "


Valérie Plante, President of the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal and Mayor of Montréal

"We notice that requests for assistance through the 211 continue to rise for all needs, but more particularly for issues related to housing. This shows once again the seriousness of the situation of social and affordable housing and the urgency of investing to solve the crisis. But above all, these numbers show the necessity and usefulness of this service. I thank the 211 Greater Montreal team for weaving the stitches of our social safety net every day by directing people to the right resources."


Claude Pinard, President and Executive Director of Centraide of Greater Montreal

"Centraide has been supporting the IRCGM's efforts to deploy the 211 hotline throughout its territory for many years. The importance of this service today is very clear simply by the number of people who call to find a resource to meet their needs. What’s more, the portrait of needs created by this service guides our collective efforts to ensure that no one is left behind. "



About 211 Greater Montréal Managed by the Information and Referral Center of Greater Montréal, 211 Greater Montréal is an information and referral service towards 6 000 socio-community resources. It is at the same time a telephone line, a chat service, an online database at 211qc.ca and a social analysis tool that sheds light on citizen's met and un-met needs for representatives and key players from the community sector. This service is free and confidential. It is also available in 200 languages, thanks to an interpreter service. 211 Greater Montréal is funded by the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal, Centraide of Greater Montreal and the Québec Government.


About the Information and Referral Center of Greater Montréal — The Information and Referral Center of Greater Montréal has had the mission of helping through information since 1956. Besides 211 Greater Montréal, it also manages the Drugs: Help and Referral and Gambling: Help and Referral helplines, as well as the TeleCounseling programme for excessive gamblers.


About the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal — Created in 2001, the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) is a planning, coordinating and funding organization that groups together 82 municipalities, totalling 4 million people spread over more than 4,360 km2. The CMM carries out responsibilities with regards to land management, economic development, social housing, public transportation and the environment.


About Centraide of Greater Montreal Centraide of Greater Montreal is active in the territories of Laval, Montreal and the South Shore. It regularly supports a network of 350 agencies and collective projects every year. Centraide is supported by private, public and parapublic corporations and institutions as well as large trade unions. The money it raises is invested locally to break the cycle of poverty and social exclusion. For more information: centraide-mtl.org.


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For information or requests for interviews, please contact:

Lucie Kechichian, Director of Communications and Community Relations