By: Tamara Orozco
When crisis hits and survival mode kicks in, it’s hard to think straight, to know where to turn for help. That’s where Sara* found herself last year.
Due to an unsafe situation at home, Sara needed immediate housing for her and her 3-year-old daughter. She reached out to her advocate, Carmen*, at Teen Success, Inc., a nonprofit working to empower high school age young mothers to reach their full potential. Together they called all of the domestic violence and housing organizations they could find, but unfortunately all of the places they called were either full or unable to assist. One such organization suggested Sara and Carmen call 211.
United Way’s 211 helpline is an integral part of our efforts to ensure all residents of the Bay Area can access their basic needs. Instead of multiple calls leading to dead ends, 211 connects struggling individuals and families with a trained specialist who can match them with services providing food, shelter, health care, and more—right in their community. The service is 100% confidential and available 24/7 online and by text in more than 150 languages.
Sara and Carmen called 211 and said they found the service incredibly easy to use. The trained specialist they spoke to was “very kind” and “sensitive” to Sara’s situation and needs. She provided Sara the same list of shelters they had already contacted, but didn’t give up when she learned they had already tried those. Upon learning that Sara was on CalWorks, the specialist suggested they contact Sara’s CalWorks social worker because they can often assist in short-term emergencies like Sara’s by providing hotel vouchers.
Taking her 211 specialist’s advice and contacting her CalWorks social worker, Sara obtained a voucher and was soon safely in a hotel with her daughter—and able to breathe again. Sara’s situation is unique but not uncommon. Last year, 211 answered 108,000 calls to connect those in need with short- and long-term solutions for their unique challenges, enabling them to meet their basic needs, and get back on their feet.
If you or someone you know needs help with anything from free tax preparation (for low-income individuals and families) to emergency shelter or food, call 2-1-1 and get connected with a specialist that can help you today.
*We have changed the names in this story to protect the privacy of those involved.