bc211 Texting Service

Larry, Resources and Publications Specialist, bc211 on April 20, 2015

In February 2015, bc211 launched its texting platform, providing residents of Metro Vancouver access to free information and referral on community, government and social services. By texting 2-1-1, people can now access a wealth of resources from their mobile devices.

Focus on Youth

Launched in partnership with TELUS and the TELUS Vancouver Community Board, the mobile text messaging service initially focused on providing service to Lower Mainland youth. A nine-week digital media campaign accompanied the launch of the service, and focused on youth mental health, substance abuse, connection to community, and homelessness. Research conducted by bc211 showed that these were issues most impacting local youth.

The mobile text messaging service offers another avenue to access bc211’s services, using technology that youth have already embraced. By texting 2-1-1, anyone can contact bc211’s Information and Referral Specialists to connect with services to address their needs. “Through our partnership with TELUS and the TELUS Vancouver Community Board, we are thrilled to be the first region in Canada to offer 211 services via text messaging,” said Bob Prenovost, Executive Director of bc211. “The increase in the use of mobile devices and the use of text messaging as a primary mode of communication, particularly among youth, are key reasons for introducing this new service.”

About bc211

bc211 connects people with community resources, providing immediate help with issues such as mental health, 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 and 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.


This isn’t bc211’s first foray into text messaging. Last fall, in partnership with the I AM SOMEONE Ending Bullying Society, bc211 supported 2TALK, a texting platform pilot project which targeted secondary school students in the Tri-Cities. By texting 2TALK from any mobile phone, youth were able to connect with local community support services to deal with bullying and issues such as gangs, sexual exploitation, date violence or abuse.

This pilot project ended in February and bc211 has just completed a review of the data from the 2TALK pilot project. Some of the findings were:

  • 45% of the conversations were with youth age 13 to 18;
  • 22% were with adults age 19 to 54
  • Each conversation had, on average, 12 text messages
  • 32% of the conversations were related to bullying and conflict with others
  • 26% of the conversations were related to mental health issues.
  • In 68% of the conversations, the texters only wanted to be listened to; they weren’t interested in receiving a referral to resources

The last point suggests youth may be more comfortable seeking support by text than by phone. Most phone callers to 211—youth and otherwise—call for resources to fill a need. Anecdotally, the youth who contacted 2TALK by text were more interested in expressing what they were feeling. We are in the early days of the 2-1-1 texting messaging service, but it will be interesting to see if these trends carry over from one platform to the other.

The launch of the 211 text messaging campaign was focused on youth, but the service is, open to people of all ages seeking community services in the Lower Mainland. For more information, visit www.bc211.ca. If you’re seeking resources within your community, dial or text -2-1-1, or visit the The Red Book Online, our online directory of resources, at redbookonline.bc211.ca.



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