By: Laura Freeze
A destructive fire. Domestic violence. Tax help. Rental assistance. Life transitions. Who can you call if you have an issue that may range from simply needing more information to a possibly life-changing crisis? The answer: 211, a program that United Way manages in the Bay Area.
There’s good reason for why 211 Day is celebrated across California and the nation every February 11th. 211–a free, multilingual, and confidential service offered 24/7– connects those in need with a vast network of health and human service agencies and resources. Last year alone, call specialists with 211 in the Bay Area answered 191,627 calls for assistance.
“211 Day is about awareness,” said Eruke Ohwofasa, a 211 Outreach and Resource Specialist at United Way Bay Area. “There are still a lot of people in the community who don’t know this service is available. This is also a day for us to thank the partnering agencies who provide these services to the community.”
Ultimately, 211 Day is about changed lives. Today, Bay Area resident Dung Pham is a successful marketing consultant and the mother of a 13-year-old with a bright future. Pham once was, however, a single mother struggling to get through school, working hard to build a better future for herself and her daughter.
“When I was in school, I used 211 to be referred to different services, so that I could get childcare, clothes for jobs, and furnishings for my home,” said Pham. “If I didn’t receive those services, I really would not have been able to make it.”
Eruke said the 211 impact extends even beyond crucial basic needs. “I’ve seen 211 give hope to people: to know that there’s a resource out there to help them in their time of need. That is very relieving, because we all need to be pointed in the right direction sometimes. It assures us that somebody cares.”
Do you think you could benefit from such resources? Dung strongly encourages you to call 211 to find out what there is available “to help you be able to thrive, rather than just get by.”
Bay Area residents can access 211 services by dialing 2-1-1 or visiting 211’s website online.
24/7 in 150 languages, the 211 helpline connects callers with hundreds of programs to help people find food, housing, health care, senior services, child care, legal aid, volunteer opportunities and much more.
Instead of multiple calls leading to dead ends, people can make one call to 211 and reach a trained specialist who assesses a caller’s full scope of needs and matches them to the right services. 211 also assists during times of disaster, providing those in distress with critical information about evacuation routes, food, and shelter.
Bay Area 211 is operated by United Way Bay Area, Eden I&R, and Contra Costa Crisis Center.