The ChatterBlock team recently met Paula Carey, a fun, high-energy Victoria local who teaches yoga out of her own home. Every year Paula donates her entire yoga profits, around $25,000, to the United Way Greater Victoria. She sits on the United Way cabinet, but her main interest is in a non-profit organization that is owned and entirely funded by the United Way – bc211. Paula calls bc211 “the best product on the Island.” But, the issue is that hardly anyone knows about it.
Have you ever heard about bc211? We hadn’t either until we met Paula. Now we think it’s a resource that everyone on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands needs to know about. bc211 has been operating in the U.S. and other provinces across Canada for many years. With the support of generous donors, the United Way funded the expansion of the bc211 onto Vancouver Island in 2017. In it's first year of operations in Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, bc211 helped over 13,000 people. The United Way continues to be the main fundraiser for bc211, and without it's generosity, bc211 would not be able to operate on the Island.
We are excited to tell you about bc211 and how it can help you, your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and anyone else if your social circle.
What is bc211?
There are hundreds of resources in Victoria for people facing various challenges and issues, but finding those that fit your needs can be difficult. bc211 is a non-profit organization that connects residents in non-emergency situations to hundreds of community, government, and social services in B.C.
bc211 won’t solve your problem for you, but they will connect you with organisations that can. You can think of bc211 as the ultimate community connector, putting you in touch with services in Victoria that you may not have known even existed.
It’s easy to access bc211’s services by calling or texting their catchy phone number 211, or visiting bc211.ca.
Services are confidential, open to all ages, and are available in 160 languages, 24-hours a day, 365 days of the year. Their online chat is available 8am to 11pm daily. bc211's ability to communicate in 160 languages is made possible through a team of provincial translators. When someone who speaks German, for example, calls in, the operator will call one of the on-call, volunteer translators, and the three of them will engage in a three-way call.
When you contact bc211, you are interacting with a friendly, trained specialist who carefully listens to your problem or query. The specialist asks questions to ensure that they are connecting you with the right service and will refer you to organisations that are best suited for you. They have access to a database that catalogues all of B.C.’s social and government organisations, and a team of five researchers constantly keep that database up-to-date.
Did we mention that using bc211 is totally free?!
What can you search for on bc211?
Pretty much anything you can think of. No problem is too big or too small for bc211. That's why we love it. You can find information on everyday needs, like transportation and food services, to more vulnerable and pressing situations, like addiction and counselling. The top reasons why Vancouver Islanders use bc211 is “housing and homelessness, mental health, income and financial assistance, and substance use.” Some of the reasons you might contact bc211 might be
- employment support,
- legal assistance,
- mental health and addition services,
- housing options (including shelter locations),
- seniors services,
- children and youth programs,
- and much more.
Last year, bc211 received call from a five-year-old girl. She said her little sister was crying because there was no food in the house. The specialist asked her where her parents were. The girl replied that her mother was cleaning toilets at a local mall. bc211 was able to connect this family with an organization that provides food assistance. bc211 also received many calls last year from families who lost their livelihood in the forest fires.
It’s also common for people in less desperate circumstances to call. For instance, out-of-province university students contact bc211 to learn how to get a B.C. drivers licence. People have called bc211 to learn where they can get a pair of crutches for their broken leg. bc211 can help everyone.
Great services for parents and families
How might you use bc211? We've thought of a few examples of things that parents might be interested in searching for on bc211.
Childcare and Parenting
Parents can use bc211 to find daycare and after-school care for children, resources for bullying, adoption services, and education and support resources for parents having at-home trouble with their children. And if you have a friend or family member with a mental or physical diagnosis, bc211 can connect you to organisations that can ensure you have the resources you need.
Whether it be your own aging parent or your mother or father-in-law, bc211 is also a great resource for those looking after an elderly person. You can receive information on housing or home care support, or, if you have a parent with a more severe condition, like dementia, bc211 can refer you to organisations that can help you manage the ailment or provide long-term care.
Are you and your family new to Canada? A specialist at bc211 can put you in touch with agencies in Victoria that are here to help you navigate the complexities of getting settled in Canada - finding work, establishing residency, you name it. Or maybe you're looking for opportunities to socialise and integrate into the community - bc211 can help with that too! bc211 was the go-to resource for the Syrian refugees who settled in Victoria a few years ago.
Tell your friends and family!
Isn’t bc211 one of the most useful resources you’ve ever heard of? We think so! Paula’s dream is for bc211 to be introduced to every child and family living on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. In 2018 alone, bc211 helped over 230,000 people in the province; clearly there is a great need for it. If you have any concerns or challenges, or if you know of someone who does, we encourage you to check them out! Remember, it's as simple as calling or texting 2-1-1 or visiting www.bc211.ca.
ChatterBlock is a proud supporter of bc211 and the United Way.