There’s 411 for information and 911 for emergencies, but did you know you can call 211 when you need help and don’t know where to turn? Most people don’t. Luckily for James of Vallejo, he stumbled upon 211 accidentally when he needed unemployment help.
James called 211 instead of 411, looking for the phone number for Kohl’s department store. Daphne, the 211 call center specialist who answered, explained 211 to James. She told him how we connect people to hundreds of community programs to help them find food, housing, health care, legal aid, and much more.
Speaking with a heavy speech impediment, James was pleasantly surprised and then asked, “Well, can you help me find some work?” From there, his story unfolded. James had been laid off five months before, and his unemployment had run out. He had part-time work, but was not earning enough to pay his rent or other bills.
Coincidentally, Daphne used to be a special-ed teacher, and switched gears. “Everyday, I would see kids get frustrated with their disability and the fact that people didn’t take the time to listen,” she said, “I was determined to help James and make sure he felt understood.”
Daphne proceeded to give James several referrals, connecting him to:
- Job assistance programs through the Workforce Investment Board of Solano
- Food assistance programs through the Health and Social Services
- Unemployment benefits help through the Employment Law Center
- Legal Services of Northern California
- Rent assistance through the Catholic Social Services
James was very appreciative of the time 211 took to speak with him. He said, “I know I can be difficult to understand and most of the time people just hang up on me.” Daphne said his call was particularly rewarding. “I was so impressed that he wasn’t letting his disability stand in the way of employment, and I was glad I could help.”
James’ story is one of thousands across the Bay Area. Last year, 211 helped close to 179,000 people. A lifeline to essential services, the call center is available 24/7 in more than 150 languages. In addition to helping people find basic needs, 211 also assists during times of disaster, providing critical information about evacuation routes, food, and shelter. Finally, 211 connects callers to other United Way programs like Earn It! Keep It! Save It! for free tax help, and SparkPoint for financial coaching.