Press Release: National 2-1-1 Day on February 11 Celebrates Human Service Number

United Way of Central Illinois’ joins United Way’s nationwide to promote 2-1-1

211 PhotoFebruary 11 is National 2-1-1 Day, in recognition of the free, user-friendly phone number that serves 90% of America’s population, and connects some 16 million people a year to critical resources, information and services.

“In Sangamon and Menard Counties, 2,900 people turned to 2-1-1 for help last year,” said John Kelker, President of United Way of Springfield. People called to find information for meeting basic needs, like heating or utility assistance, emergency help, or to find the closest food bank. But they also called for everyday information, to find out where to take their child for developmental screening, or how to locate job training or to find free tax filing support.

2-1-1 was launched in Sangamon and Menard Counties at the end of 2012. The majority of calls in the Springfield area requested help with basic needs – such as rent & utility assistance. “As more people in our community become aware of the service, we expect the number of calls to increase dramatically,” said Kelker.

“Without 2-1-1, callers can make an average of eight phone calls to different numbers before finding the services they need,” Kelker said. “2-1-1 cuts through the red tape to save providers time and money, while helping Springfield area residents connect with the resources they’re looking for.”

2-1-1 was launched by United Way almost 20 years ago as a free way to connect people to essential resources. Today, 2-1-1 serves more than 283 million Americans– more than 90% of our population — in all 50 states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico. In 2012 (most recent data available, almost 16 million people called 2-1-1 in the U.S. about job training, employment, food pantries, help for an aging parent, addiction prevention programs, affordable housing options, support groups and volunteer opportunities. After a disaster, when many land lines aren’t working, people call 2-1-1 to search out water, food, shelter and disaster aid.

Kelker also serves as the Board Chair for United Way of Illinois which is working diligently to expand 2-1-1 service statewide. “Although more than 90% of the nation has 2-1-1 services available, less than 50% of Illinois, including the Chicago area, has access to 2-1-1,” said Kelker. “We are working with officials and organizations statewide to increase coverage and improve access to 2-1-1.”

2-1-1 does more than connect people with help. It also takes the “pulse” of American communities. Calls to 2-1-1 Centers in many communities spiked before the recession was declared in 2009, for example. And in 2010 a national survey found 90% of 2-1-1 Centers were getting pleas for help from people who’d never sought any help from food pantries, public assistance or rent and utility help before. Many communities analyze 2-1-1 data as one social indicator of local needs and economic stability.

So what happens with a 2-1-1 call? When you dial 2-1-1 (for free), the call is routed to the local 2-1-1 Center. It’s answered by a trained information and referral specialist, who discerns your need, then searches a comprehensive database of relevant human service referrals. The 2-1-1 specialist explains how to access those services. In the case of a worker who has recently been laid off or whose hours have been reduced, the 2-1-1 specialist may share information about unemployment benefits, job search options, food stamps, food pantries, mortgage or rent help, utility assistance, counseling and other available resources.

United Ways have been long-standing supporters and the national leader of the 2-1-1 movement. As the largest private funder of the 2-1-1 network, United Ways continue to strengthen and support 2-1-1 as another way to build stronger communities and create opportunities for all.

In Sangamon and Menard Counties, individuals seeking assistance can call 2-1-1 or 1-888-865-9903 for immediate assistance. More information about 2-1-1 can be found here.

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Please call Jarid Brown, Director of Communication at 217-836-2656 or by email at jbrown@uwcil.org for more information.