Coasters can now call 2-1-1

Coasters can now call 2-1-1 to connect to services like counselling, employment assistance, senior services, housing, legal assistance and more at any time of day.

The new 24-hour help line was officially launched on the Coast on March 4 with a celebration at the Seaside Centre in Sechelt.

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An offering of the United Way, the bc211 line is the third United Way project to be set up on the Coast. The non-profit group also supports Success by Six for young children and the Better at Home program launched for seniors last year.

United Way has over an 80-year history of providing financial support to social service organizations in this province, and it's certainly been a philosophy of ours that the social services are only as good as the people who need them understand where and when to find them when they're in a time of need, said executive director of the United Way Michael McKnight.

So 2-1-1 and information referral obviously is a very critical part of our mission, getting information to people when they need it.

Sandy McBride of the Community Resource Centre said the new line will make a big difference for her group.

What 2-1-1 will do for us as board members and volunteers with the community resource centre is provide us with this amazing and continually updated database that we can continue to use in our face-to-face meetings with the people who come to see us, McBride said.

Karen Archer of the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society noted that such a line is invaluable in an emergency.

Life crisis sometimes happens. You don't know where to turn, and when it isn't available and you have to hunt for the information, it just puts you down that little spot deeper. That's why it's such a pivotal day and such an exciting day for us to be here together, Archer said.

In addition to disseminating information, bc211 will be gathering information about the calls they take from the Coast.

The fact that we're gathering data about what people need and when they need it and where they need it will allow all of us to plan better in terms of providing social services to people, McKnight said.

While the line is useful for day-to-day information needs, it can also offer up-to-date information in the event of a natural disaster, and call takers are trained as victim service workers.

Currently call takers are learning all about the Sunshine Coast, taking quizzes and practising their knowledge about the newly added area.

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