I know you’re not a social worker. But chances are unfortunately very good that someone you know is having trouble and needs a social services referral.
The call came on a Thursday morning out of the blue, from a school district employee in the north of Santa Clara County. She was concerned about a high school kid who lives in a homeless shelter with his mother. He has had a very troubled childhood, largely due to mom’s mental illness and resulting instability. A while back, the family had received a lot of help from someone at my agency and they wanted to talk to her again, urgently.
I was pretty sure that the name she gave me is someone who no longer works for us. And I also knew that we no longer have the program she worked in. (Funding changes are constant in the nonprofit sector, which can be very frustrating for everyone.) I said I’d call her back then checked around and confirmed my suspicions. This employee hadn’t worked for us for at least five years. I called our current director of family programs about an outside referral, and then remembered that she was on vacation. So I decided to figure it out on my own.
Lately, I’ve gotten several calls from volunteers or random folks like this school district employee asking about how to help people in trouble. I’ve decided to develop my own referral list and now I’ll share it with you.
- First, if you just don’t know what to do, and it’s not an emergency, have the person in trouble call 2-1-1. This is like a social services switchboard for all of Silicon Valley, run by United Way of Silicon Valley. It’s the most comprehensive referral service we have for people who need help, from food to shelter to rental assistance to escape from domestic violence. 2-1-1 is available online at 211scc.org or just by dialing it. I think you can get services in about 140 languages.
- Next, if you know families or individuals (adults, teens, and children) experiencing, exposed to, or recovering from domestic violence, refer them to the YMCA’s Support Network. Their Crisis Line is 1.800.572.2782, but don’t forget that 911 is the best call to place if they are in immediate danger.
- A good resource for children and youth in crisis is EMQ Families First, which has locations across California. They maintain a large network of services designed to aid children, adolescents, and families at all levels of need. Their Crisis Hotline is (877) 41-CRISIS (412-7474) or locally (408) 379-9085.
- A lot of people struggling to make ends meet are going without food. People often hide this problem. But if you know someone who is having a very hard time financially, figure out a way to drop this hint. Second Harvest Food Bank has a Food Connection line at 1-800-984-3663. Food Connection will tell them where to get free food at locations near their home or work. They can also find out if they qualify for CalFresh (Food Stamps) and where to apply.
- Lastly, let’s talk about suicide. You should know this: for mental health emergencies, please dial 911 and request a CIT (Crisis Intervention Trained) officer who has received additional training in mental health. We also have the Santa Clara County Suicide & Crisis Hotline, 1.855.278.4204. (They will be connected to a caring individual trained in mental health, emotional support, and community resources.) If you know someone outside the area who is suffering, the National Suicide & Crisis Hotline is 1.800.273.8255 and the Deaf Hotline is 1.800.799.4889. And if you really care about the issue or are close with anyone for whom you are concerned, Santa Clara County has a free online suicide prevention training for all of us. It takes just 1.5 hours and is very helpful. I know, because I’ve done it. Go to this link: http://www.sccgov.org/sites/sccphd/en-us/Pages/Free-Online-Suicide-Prevention-Training.aspx
Don’t feel helpless when people are in trouble. Be prepared.
What numbers and organizations would you add?