When Montrealers need help in dealing with a pressing social issue, they often turn to the Information and Referral Center of Greater Montreal to get in touch with the appropriate agency.
The centre offers service in English and French on the phone seven days a week, from 8am to 6pm.
As the not-for-profit phone service celebrated its 60th anniversary last month — the merged English and French language services actually began in 1969 — some new, important, and exciting features have been added to its repertoire.
“People need to have someone to guide them to resources that are available,” said Marie Vaillant, spokesperson for the group, and the number to call is 514-527-1375. It is available to anyone on Montreal Island, South Shore, and North Shore communities.
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The latest innovation is that people in Laval can dial 211 to connect to the service, matching a similar service available in Quebec City.
Those who call 211 and are unable to speak French or English will be connected as soon as possible with multilingual translators, who can offer service in some 200 languages, Vaillant said. The centre hopes to expand this simplified service to Montreal, including a multilingual capacity.
A trained staff of six certified counselors fields the general calls and refers people to public resources that are as close as possible to where callers live.
Centraide, which contributed $205,800 this fiscal year, supports the budget. Quebec’s Health and Social Services Department also gives $154,887 through its support program for community organizations, and additional funds for designated help lines to deal with drug and gambling addiction.
A total of 17 trained tele-counselors are available 24/7 to respond to calls on addiction issues such as narcotics, alcohol, and prescription drugs. Montrealers can call 514-527-2626. Gambling addiction has a separate number, reachable at 514-527-0140.
The centre also employs five people in its documentation services, updating its database of the city’s 5,000 social and community-based organizations.
Another important and relatively new initiative is its bilingual referral/help line for seniors, 514-527-0007, which operates seven days a week from 8 am to 6 pm.
“Seniors need special attention, special care,” Vaillant says. The referral center’s senior directory can also be accessed at ainesmtl.ca/en.
“Some seniors who call us are very alone, they feel isolated and need a space to express their needs, and deserve special attention and care.”