Community Strengthening - United Ways of California

Community Strengthening

Individually and together, California’s United Ways work to create tangible and sustainable change for Californians in vulnerable communities by providing pathways to support.

By coming together to support Californians in times of crisis, we strive to build stronger and healthier communities.  

Connecting People to Local Resources through 211

211 is a free information and referral service that provides access to live, trained specialists, via phone or Web, and connects people to services in their community 24-hours a day, 7 days-a-week. 

In California and across the U.S., millions of families rely on 211 for help finding needed community services such as rent and mortgage assistance, food and shelter, healthcare, job training, transportation, childcare, and senior care. For example, 211 services have been important gateways for enrolling low and moderate-income families in health insurance programs, including Healthy Families, and county-based Children’s Health Initiatives.

211 also plays a critical role in providing information and support in times of disaster, such as evacuation, shelter, food, medical and recovery information, and providing public officials with feedback from callers about changing conditions.

United Ways of California and our California United Way members are proud to support 211 and are dedicated to helping Californians in need get access to resources. 211 programs are sponsored by public and private funders, including county and city agencies, United Ways, and private foundations. California United Ways operate and/or provide major funding for 211 programs in 28 of 31 counties.

To seek resources in your community, please visit

Building Resilient Communities and Recovering from Disasters

By coming together to support Californians in times of crisis, we strive to build stronger and healthier communities.  

As the frequency and scope of disasters has increased, from larger and more devastating wildfires to the wide-ranging disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, United Ways and the 211 information and referral programs they operate or fund and partner with have taken on an expanded role in disaster response and recovery. Over the past five years, in addition to COVID relief, 21 United Ways have engaged in disaster response and recovery from fires, including major fires such as the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma, the Carr and Camp Fires in Shasta and Butte, and the Thomas Fire in Ventura and LA counties, fire and flood relief in Santa Barbara in 2019, and the swarms of fires affecting Northern California in 2020 and 2021, affecting Siskiyou, Shasta, Butte, Plumas, Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties.

United Ways have assisted residents by providing information on evacuation routes, and handling non-rescue calls through their 2-1-1 information and referral programs, and by providing direct financial relief to thousands of families in each of these disasters displaced by the fires, as well as helping lead longer-term rebuilding efforts (for example, United Way of the Wine Country is still involved in the work of helping families recover from the 2017 Tubbs Fire). We have also used text messaging to reliably reach people (in disasters, telephone calls often can’t get through when SMS text messages can), and to support the work that 211 providers do to relieve the burden on the 911 system by providing vital information, including evacuation orders and routes, and responding to non-rescue calls.

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