HomeAid Orange County

The One Number To Call When You Are Homeless

by Karen Williams, President & CEO of 211OC

November 08, 2017

When addressing homelessness in Orange County, it is natural to ask yourself “Where do I begin?” or “What can I do when I see someone who is homeless and how can I help?” The first step you can take is referring those in need to the one number they need to call – 211. Just like those who would dial 411 for information or 911 for an emergency, 211 is a lifeline.

As the third largest and second most densely populated county in California, Orange County has long outgrown its agricultural roots and recent reputation as a wealthy suburb. With a high cost of living (42.8% above the national average) worsened by a severe lack of affordable housing, many Orange County residents struggle to meet life’s most basic needs. According to the 2017 Point-in-Time Count, 4,800 people are homeless each night in Orange County.

Fortunately, 2-1-1 Orange County (211OC) is here to help! 211OC is a nonprofit organization and by dialing 2-1-1, people are connected to the health and human resources they need, like housing and shelter, assistance with their CalFresh applications to obtain nutritious meals, and employment readiness programs.

Here at 211OC, we have three core initiatives that help to strengthen the region’s safety net of services. We:

To enable organizations to better serve Orange County’s homeless populations, 211OC is leading the federally mandated Coordinated Entry (CE) System in partnership with OC Community Services and the Continuum of Care – the group of agencies serving people without a home. CE screens applicants into the program that best fits their short-term and long-term needs, reducing wait times and duplicate entries.

211OC will provide homeless and at-risk residents with prevention, diversion, and housing resources, as well as referrals to local homeless assistance programs. Community Outreach Specialists will identify and house over 100 chronically homeless people through CE in the first year and reduce homelessness by 85% within 5-6 years of CE operations!

We also lead the Point-in-Time – the physical count of the homeless population in Orange County. This count is vital for ending homelessness, and helps the county qualify for more than $19,000,000 in federal funding for services to reduce homelessness. Our goal for the 2017 unsheltered count is to engage more than 700 community members as volunteers in the county, and more than 50 homeless or formerly homeless as guides.

Having a strong, organized, and well-informed community is a great first step in tackling homelessness anywhere in the United States. Here in Orange County, you can help people facing homelessness by calling 2-1-1 to find information and services in your area that are available to help and by telling others about 211.


Carry a resource card in your purse or wallet to hand to someone in need. Obtain yours at HomeAid Orange County, 211OC, or by downloading it here: https://homeaidoc.box.com/s/fopzwckwqjicuabmmmlkxw87szv9t7tl

We know that everyone knows someone who needs help. You have some spare time? You can really make a difference in people’s lives. Join 211OC as a community volunteer. For more information visit http://www.211oc.org/get-involved/volunteer.html.


HomeAid has been ending homelessness with 211OC since 2005. HomeAid is an active participant in the Point-in-Time Count, a count of the homeless in Orange County that is coordinated by 211OC every other year.