Celebrating 10 years of turning lives around: Teejay’s experience with BC211

In 2018, Teejay – a MoveUP member who works at ICBC – and her fiancé welcomed a new son to their blended family that was now a full house of eight.

The addition of a new family member is always a cause for celebration but while this a happy moment for the family, what came around the corner suddenly rocked their world. Not along after welcoming Tommy home, they were suddenly given just two weeks notice to pack up their lives and leave the family home.

With real estate and rental prices being unaffordable and unavailable, the family was on the verge of becoming homeless.

“This happened last year during spring break,” recalled Teejay. “We put our belongings in storage, camped at my sister Colleen’s place for a couple of weeks, and tried to make it a fun experience for the kids.

“It was a hectic and stressful time of my life, and it was a humbling moment for me. With nowhere to turn, I reached out to my union.”

It was through MoveUP that she was introduced to BC211, a United Way program created with the help of the labour movement that is not only open to union members but anybody that needs it.

“BC211 services 80 percent of the population in British Columbia with the top three challenges being housing, homelessness, and mental health,” said BC211 Chief Executive Officer, Irene Chanin.

2020 marks the 10th anniversary for BC211, which was officially launched in April 2010. However, their origins date back to 1953 when they were known as Community Information Services.

BC211, specializes in connecting people with community, government, and social services in B.C. They also help people access helplines such as the Shelter and Street Help Line, Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service (ADIRS), the Gambling Support Line BC, VictimLink BC, and the Youth Against Violence Line.

“Our referral specialists can be contacted easily by phone, email, web chat or text,” said Chanin. “BC211 has a database with over 14,000 publications and resources that are monitored regularly to be up-to-date and makes referrals based on what the callers’ challenges are.

“It is rewarding to help our communities and match our callers with the appropriate resources during their time of need. We are a non-profit organization funded through the generosity of the United Way of the Lower Mainland and the United Way of Greater Victoria. Thanks to these great community organizations, we’re able to connect people to the help they need, where and when they need it,” Chanin said.

For Teejay, she can’t begin to express her gratitude at the service and support she received from BC211.

“BC211 truly made an overwhelming situation into a hopeful and optimistic opportunity,” said Teejay. “The referral specialist helped to get us back-on-track, with paperwork, and counseling. They helped each member of our family with what we needed at that time, including fresh groceries to go home with.

“I am also very grateful to two special people at MoveUP – VP Annette Toth and Union Representative Trevor Hansen – as they truly went above and beyond the call of duty to help my family.”

Teejay, who has been with ICBC for the past three years, volunteers regularly during their annual United Way campaign. Admittedly, supporting the United Way has taken on additional meaning for her after this experience.

“I will continue volunteering for them,” said Teejay. “I am proud of ICBC and my colleagues who work hard each year to raise money, and I was thrilled to learn BC211 is one of the services to receive funding from the United Way.”

Teejay, whose happy family is now settled in Langford, offers this piece of advice for anyone who is struggling and needing someone to turn to for help.

“If you or anyone you know are going through a tough time, pick up the phone and call BC211 and speak with a Referral Specialist. It can be hard to when or how to ask for help, but there is no shame and they will take care of you.”

BC211 can easily be reached by dialing on Vancouver Island/Gulf Islands and in the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Squamish-Lillooet and Sunshine Coast regional districts. You can also text 2-1-1 as well. Access for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community in B.C. is available by dialing 604-875-0885. This service is free, confidential, multilingual, and available 24/7. Learn more at bc211.ca.