VICTORIA, BC – Just in time for Victoria’s extreme weather protocol (EWP) to go into effect for the winter months, United Way Greater Victoria (UWGV) is providing bc211 additional funding to bring a new shelter and street helpline to the Capital Regional District (CRD).

Building off the successful bc211 model initiated by United Way Lower Mainland, the shelter and street helpline is designed to assist people in real time who are affected by homelessness find a warm place to stay on any given night. It also provides reliable and up-to-date information for frontline shelter staff and police officers to help place someone on the street with temporary shelter.

Launching November 30, staff at bc211 call the 10 shelters including year round, seasonal and EWP options in the CRD, two times a day and publish the bed & mat availability as an online PDF at http://shelters.bc211.ca/bc211shelters and on an interactive map found at https://www.streetmessenger.io/map.

In addition, service providers, police officers and individuals facing homelessness can simply call or text 2-1-1 to speak with a live agent 24/7. This service is also available in more than 160 languages. The agent can assist with locating the nearest available shelter space that meets the person’s requirements (i.e.: space for carts, allows pets, wheelchair accessible, etc).

“At United Way we recognized a need in the community and worked collaboratively with the Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Response Plan team to bring a coordinated response, through the new shelter and street helpline, that helps build capacity for our valued frontline service providers and also offers a valuable resource to our most vulnerable citizens. We view this kind of leadership as the role our community counts on from United Way,” says Patricia Jelinski, President & CEO, UWGV.

“211 is a tremendous service for our residents. Now with the addition of the shelter and street helpline – we can help people find a place to sleep during a difficult time of year when the weather can change so rapidly. Congratulations to United Way for seeing a need in our community and bringing forward a solution through bc211,” says Lisa Helps, Mayor, City of Victoria and Co-Chair of the Coalition to End Homelessness.

“I am pleased to see such an incredibly well supported and well thought out service like bc211 in the CRD. I look forward to alleviating the struggle of calling multiple resources to determine which facility would be right or accessible for those seeking emergency shelter services,” says Jen Wilde, regional coordinator, Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Response Plan. “The shelter and street helpline is a resource that just makes sense both to the clients we serve and frontline service providers who are trying to advocate for them. I am grateful to United Way for funding such a useful tool and offering us a much needed service in our community.”

“Our officers frequently encounter people who need assistance other than that which we can provide. This can vary from finding housing to counselling to addiction services. bc211 means they now have just one number to call regardless of the type of assistance they require. For VicPD, this is not only efficient, but it will give us comfort that people are being connected to the help they need. bc211 can answer non-emergency calls related to social, community and government services and subsequently free up our officers to attend to other high priority calls. Thank you to the United Way for its leadership in funding and bringing the street and shelter line to our city. It’s a much needed resource,” says Chief Del Manak, Victoria Police Department.

This announcement as part of the #ThankYouThursday movement was made possible by the generosity of United Way donors. If you would like to make a contribution to United Way’s 2017 community campaign, donations are accepted at workplaces, United Way’s office at 201 – 633 Courtney Street, via phone 250-385-6708 or online at uwgv.ca.

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For more information, please contact:

Heather Skydt
Director, Marketing and Communications
United Way Greater Victoria
Work: (250) 984-2269
Email: heather@uwgv.ca

Lisa Helps
Mayor, City of Victoria and Co-Chair of the Coalition to End Homelessness
Cell: 250-661-2708

Jen Wilde
Regional Coordinator
Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Response Plan
Cell: 250.896.4012
Email: jen@vewp.net
Website: www.vewp.net

Cst. Matt Rutherford
Public Affairs, Victoria Police Department
Cell: 250-361-8263
Direct: 250-995-7294
Email: matthew.rutherford@vicpd.ca

BACKGROUNDER BC211:

In June 2017, United Way Greater Victoria joined nine other United Ways throughout BC to expand bc211.ca to all British Columbians. The online service directory consists of over 13,000 agency and program records related to community, social and government services. The website is also optimized for mobile devices and online chat is available seven days a week from 8am to 11pm.

On Vancouver Island, United Way Greater Victoria expanded from the website to the full bc211 services including telephone and text in September 2017. 211 is a confidential, multi-lingual, telephone, texting and online referral service providing information free of charge.

Trained and certified information and referral specialists link services such as mental health supports, shelter and housing, legal aid, addictions treatment, newcomer services, or food banks to people seeking assistance. Its operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in over 160 languages. bc211 also helps service providers instantly find resources for their clients and provides information for caregivers seeking help for their loved ones.

In 2010, United Way Lower Mainland launched the bc211 website, phone and text capabilities in Metro Vancouver. Since that time they have expanded the services to include Squamish-Lillooet, Sunshine Coast and the Fraser Valley Regional Districts. With the addition of BC, approximately 70% of Canadians now have access to 211 and United Way Centraide Canada remains committed to bringing 211 to all Canadians.

In its 2016/17 fiscal year, bc211.ca had more than 276,000 unique visitors, a 17% increase in online queries over the previous year, the majority of which focused on issues of housing and homelessness, substance abuse, and health (non-clinical). bc211 also answered over 52,000 phone calls and made over 60,000 referrals to community agencies for help.