211 Help Line expands to Sunshine Coast

Starting March 4 residents of the Sunshine Coast will join Metro Vancouver, Squamish - Lillooet and Fraser Valley regional districts in the benefits of the 211 help line and online search engine.

Looking for information on legal help, employment or settlement services, shelter availability or other services for seniors, families or youth? Simply dial 2-1-1 or go to resources.bc211.ca. This toll-free phone number provides citizens with information and referral to community, social and government services and will help fill major information gaps on the Coast.

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A non-profit information and referral organization, bc211 is funded by the United Way of the Lower Mainland. The service utilizes an extensive database to help callers find the most appropriate resources in their local community. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and is multilingual.

All calls are answered by certified information and referral specialists with extensive training and social services experience. Calls are completely confidential. The bc211 service also operates several provincial help lines, funded by the province of B.C., including the Problem Gambling Help Line, VictimLink BC and Youth Against Violence.

"The Community Resource Centre (CRC) has been informing, referring, educating and empowering local residents for over 20 years. Having 211 available on the Sunshine Coast will strengthen and enhance the work that we do," said co-chairs Pat Hunt and Sandy McBride.

In 2011, the CRC and Sunshine Coast Community Services (SCCSS) signed a memorandum of understanding that forged a mutually beneficial partnership to meet our community's need for information, resource and referral.

Local women told the CRC's Progress Plan, a project for improving women's economic well-being, that a central source of information about local services was needed.

"Isolation is an economic risk factor. Individuals and families who are well connected have access to the information, opportunities and support needed to create financial security," added Michelle Morton, project manager for the Progress Plan.

In summer 2013, the CRC and SCCSS began exploring the possibility of bringing 211 service to the Coast.

Providing and improving local, face-to-face support and enhancing rural connection to information and referral services is also important. Thanks to a grant from the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation, the CRC has facilitated two information and referral round tables, which bring community agencies and organizations together to create connections and address gaps.

"We are excited to work with the community to build an information sharing network to improve information and referral along the Coast," said Christabelle Kux-Kardos, information and referral coordinator for the CRC.

The community is invited to join Community Resource Centre, Sunshine Coast Community Services, bc211 and the United Way on March 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Seaside Centre at a launch of the 211 service.

For more information call the CRC at 604-885-4088.

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