Have you ever heard of dialling 211?
To get word out to British Columbians about the option of calling 211 — a free and confidential service that refers people to resources for help —the Victoria Street Bridge and bridges around the province, will be illuminated red on Saturday (Feb. 11).
This annual day of recognition called “211 Day” aims to raise awareness about this service which helps people navigate the complex network of social, government, and community services.
People can simply dial or text 2-1-1 to connect with a navigator who will help find the right support in their community for their unique situation, whether it’s housing, food, financial aid, counselling, or more. The service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Another option is to visit: bc.211.ca.
“There is still a stigma in our society when it comes to asking for help, but the simple truth is that everyone, no matter how strong, experiences ups and downs in life that may need support,” says Niina Niemi, director, 211. “We receive over 150 calls every day from people in communities across British Columbia.”
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 led to a significant increase in the number of contacts to 211 British Columbia, the service notes. Moreover, 211 BC says that as inflation continues to exacerbate existing economic strain, their data indicates the changing needs of callers is a reflection of evolving challenges many British Columbians are facing.
“There is no shame in seeking support, and help starts here,” Niemi said. “Our 211 navigators will listen and compassionately connect you to available resources in your community.”
When comparing province-wide data from 2022 to 2020, 211 BC has seen an increase of:
• 15 per cent more contacts for housing
• 22 per cent rise in mental health related calls
• 40 per cent increase for legal and public safety, and
• 49 per cent more calls involving abuse
When compared to pre-pandemic 2019 statistics, 211 BC reports that in certain parts of the province last year, there was as much as a 31 per cent increase in the number of contacts asking about food and meals.
In 2022, the top five searches on 211 BC’s website in order were:
• free and low-cost food
• general counselling
• finding housing
• mental health, and
Operated by United Way British Columbia, 211 BC is a part of the 211 network available across North America. Interpretation is available in over 150 languages when calling.
“At United Way BC, we are committed to building healthier, caring and inclusive communities, and 211 is a direct reflection of that commitment,” says Michael McKnight, president and chief executive officer. “211 exists as a vital lifeline, available to all British Columbians experiencing challenges and needing support.”
On Canada Day 2021, six United Ways across the province joined together to become United Way British Columbia. Representing Trail and District, East Kootenay, Southern Interior, Thompson Nicola Cariboo, Central and Northern Vancouver Island, and the Lower Mainland, United Way B.C. strives to support upwards of four million people, with a focus on kids and youth, seniors, poverty, mental health and food security.
“211 Day is a very important day in building awareness about this free and accessible resource,” McKnight adds. “We are grateful to all the communities who will be lighting up their landmarks in red in support of 211.”