Special to the Opelika Observer
Feb. 11 is National 2-1-1 Day, in recognition of the free, user-friendly phone number that connects people to critical resources, information and services. It is designed to bring awareness to the 24/7, easy to remember number that can link callers with human services and resources available in their community.
In Lee, Russell and Chambers counties, 7,538 referrals were given to people who turned to 2-1-1 for help in 2019, said Lindsey, 211 Coordinator of East Alabama. People who called were given referrals for things such as heating or utility assistance, emergency help or to find the closest food pantry. They also called for everyday information, like finding out where to take their child for developmental screenings, how to locate job training or to find free tax filing support, affordable housing options, support groups and volunteer opportunities. After a disaster, people call 2-1-1 to search out water, food, shelter and disaster aid.
“Without 2-1-1, callers can make an average of eight phone calls to different numbers before finding the services they need,” Lindsey said. “2-1-1 cuts through the red tape to save providers time and money, while helping Lee, Chambers & Russell county residents connect with the resources they’re looking for”.
2-1-1 was launched by United Way 23 years ago as a free way to connect people to essential (and local) resources. East Alabama 2-1-1 has been helping the residents of Lee and Chambers counties since 2008. Since 2014, Russell County has been dually served by East Alabama 2-1-1 and United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley 211 in Columbus. East Alabama 2-1-1 has given more than 52,175 referrals to those residents since beginning in 2008.
In addition to regular information and referral services offered at the East Alabama 2-1-1 call center, we will also provide connections for callers who have children by offering to connect them to a coordinator for early childhood development and school readiness.
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(s), 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 Way of Lee County and United Way Worldwide have been long-standing supporters and the national leaders of the 2-1-1 movement in Partnership with AIRS (Alliance of Information and Referral Services). 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 through the power of information (and referral!)