Housing is top reason for Vancouver Islanders to contact bc211

VICTORIA, BC – The top reason that Vancouver Island residents contacted bc211 in 2017 was to get assistance with housing and homelessness. Of the 875 calls, emails, texts and webchats bc211 received between June to December, 23 per cent involved housing and homelessness.

February 11 is 2-1-1 Day across Canada and the US. The day creates awareness of the free, confidential help service that was created in partnership with United Way.

“bc211 means that help is available, 24/7, when and where people need it, a concept important to United Way,” said Patricia Jelinski, President & CEO, United Way Greater Victoria. “People have complex needs: information specialists at 211 help people navigate the range of programs and services that are available to help no matter the issue.”

bc211 started serving the Lower Mainland in partnership with United Way in 2010. Last June, in collaboration with United Ways across BC, the online version of bc211.ca expanded to serve all of BC. In September, United Way Greater Victoria facilitated the addition of phone and text capabilities to bc211 service on the island. That means that Vancouver Islanders can call or text 211, or go online to search or chat for connections to community, social and government resources on everything from housing to employment assistance to support groups.

Statistics tracked by bc211 create a snapshot of local needs. After housing and homelessness, the top reasons for Vancouver Islanders to contact bc211 were: mental health; income and financial assistance; substance use; and health. The top five topics searched for online at bc211.ca were: counselling; mental health; housing; addiction; and homelessness.

 Recognizing the concerns involving housing and homelessness, United Way Greater Victoria worked with Greater Victoria Extreme Weather Response Plan partners to create the Shelter and Street Help Line via 2-1-1. The help line assists people find a warm place to stay on any given night and helps frontline responders direct people in need to shelters where there are beds or mats available. More than 100 people have been helped by the Shelter and Street Help Line since it launched November 30.

The addition of phone and text service to Vancouver Island and the creation of the Shelter & Street Help Line were made possible through the generosity of United Way donors. To support bc211 services in our region and the programs it support, a generous United Way donor has offered to match all donations made to www.uwgv.ca  by March 31, 2018 up to a maximum of $40,000. Donations can also be accepted at United Way’s office at 201 – 633 Courtney Street, or via phone 250-385-6708.


In 1997, the first 211 help line was launched by United Way Metro Atlanta. In 2002, United Way/Centraide Canada and other partners won approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to use 211 for community, social, government and health information.

In 2010, United Way of the Lower Mainland launched the bc211 website, phone and text capabilities in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

In April 2016, building on the success of United Way of the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, United Way Greater Victoria’s Board of Directors and eight other United Ways operating in BC approved the funding to bring bc211 online services to all British Columbians. The service directory database was built to accommodate new records from across the province; the website was optimized for mobile devices; and a live web chat was developed. The service was launched across the province in June, 2017.

In September, 2017, thanks to the generosity of United Way Greater Victoria donors, phone and text capabilities were added to Vancouver Island. In November, the Shelter & Street Help Line was added.

The 211 international network now serves 90% of the USA and 70% of Canada.

For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Young, Director Marketing & Communications, United Way
Work: (250) 984-2269
Email: jennifer.young@uwgv.ca

Patricia Jelinski, President & CEO, United Way
Work: (250) 220-7364
Cell: (250) 217-8698
Email: patricia.jelinski@uwgv.ca