Public safety and law enforcement is police job #1. But men and women in blue often have to put on their social worker hats to help out community members who have nowhere else to turn. In these situations, 211 is a vital resource that helps police connect members of the public to services like food and shelter.
A few months ago, a San Mateo County police officer made his first call to 211 after stumbling upon a homeless man living in a garage. The officer had been called out because an elderly gentleman had passed away, leaving behind the man in the garage who he had let stay there for free.
Because he wasn’t a relative, the man needed to vacate the garage. The police officer called 211 to find out where he could send the man. I answered his call and was able to give the officer a referral to the nearest shelter and walked him through the intake process. I explained that the man in the garage might be able to get a bed for the night, and that as part of the intake, he would be screened for additional programs like food, transitional or permanent housing, and services he might need to become self-sufficient again.
This was the first time the officer had called 211 for assistance. He said, “I didn’t know what I could expect, but now that I do, I’ll be calling again and telling other officers what a great resource 211 is. Thank you.”
211 answered 185,000 calls last year, and is often the first line of defense for police trying to connect members of the public to community services. We’re open 24/7 just like the police. But you don’t have to wear a uniform to call. All Bay Area residents can phone 211 if you need help and don’t know where to turn.
Learn more about 211 at www.211BayArea.org.
Photo courtesy of Scott Davidson via Creative Commons license.