bc211 Text Messaging Service: Happy First Birthday!

On February 2, 2015, bc211 launched its texting service, enabling residents of the Lower Mainland to access bc211 services simply by texting 2-1-1 from their mobile devices. Accessing free information and referral regarding community, government and social services in Metro Vancouver now no longer requires a phone call.

Call or text 211With the launch of our text messaging service, people throughout the bc211 calling area can text the name of their city to 2-1-1 and connect with an information and referral specialist by text messaging. This texting service is available from 8 am to 11 pm seven days a week.

bc211 is a free service. People call us with a need, and we connect them with resources to help meet that need. For over 50 years we’ve been connecting people with community resources, and providing immediate help with issues such as housing and shelter, substance use, health care, and financial assistance. bc211 operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is multilingual. All inquiries are answered by Certified Information & Referral Specialists with extensive training and social services experience. 211 services are completely confidential and available in Metro Vancouver, Squamish-Lillooet, Sunshine Coast and Fraser Valley Regional Districts.

Phone Calls to bc211: February 2015 – January 2016

We’re a year into the bc211 text messaging service, and though it’s still early days, this anniversary gives us a chance to review the service and see how it compares to the 211 phone service.

Over the past year more than half the phone calls we received were for help around issues of housing and homelessness.

  • 59 % of phone callers were female
  • The majority of callers (almost 95%) were in the 19 to 54 age bracket
  • Less than one percent (0.3%) were under 19
  • Almost 3% were seniors over age 65
  • 84% of callers were individuals seeking information for themselves
  • 12% were service provider
  • 4% were affected 3rd Parties, seeking services for someone else

Text Messages to bc211: February 2015 – January 2016

Well over one-third (37%) of text messages we received were from people seeking resources around housing and homelessness. This (as with the phone calls) represents the greatest issue for which we received requests.

  • 66% of “texters” were identified as female
  • The majority (92%) of texters were in the 19 to 54 age bracket
  • 5% were 13 to 18 years old
  • 1% were seniors age 65 and older
  • 91% were individuals seeking services for themselves
  • 5% were affected third parties seeking services for someone else
  • 4% were service providers

Demographic Differences?

What is interesting – though perhaps not surprising – is that while less than one percent of callers (0.3%) to our phone line were in the 13 to 18 year old demographic, 5% of texters were in this demographic – In the total number of text messages we received, the proportion of youth contacting us by text was 16 times greater than the proportion of youth contacting us by phone within the total number of phone calls we received in this period. At the other end of the spectrum 3% of phone callers were seniors aged 65 and older, while only 1% of texts were received from this demographic.

As mentioned, the main issue for which people contacted bc211, both by phone call and text messaging, was housing and homelessness. When we strip away this issue, we see some interesting differences in reasons for contacting 211.

Reasons for Contacting bc211: Texting Compared to Phone Calls

Texting and Phone Calls compared

Over twice as many texters than phone callers contacted us for a mental health issue, and a greater percentage of texts (8%) than phone calls (5%) were related to abuse. 3% of texts were related to suicide but less than 1% of phone calls (not shown in the chart) were.

Conversely 7% of phone calls we received were seeking health resources compared to 4% of texts.

Admittedly, it’s too early to make much of these differences and to extrapolate as to whether there’s a correlation between the type of service being sought and the medium of communication. Our text service is still young continues to grow; with time we may see emerging trends reflected in these numbers.

Until then remember: the bc211 text messaging service is open to people of all ages seeking community services in southwestern BC. For more information, visit www.bc211.ca. If you’re seeking resources within your community, text the name of your community to 2-1-1 between 8 am to 11 pm, or dial 2-1-1 anytime of the day. You can also visit The Red Book Online, our online directory of resources.