211: Essential services at your finger tips

April 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is one place you can turn to in most Bay Area counties where you can ask questions about childcare, healthcare, housing assistance, caring for an elderly parent, you name it. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call 211. Denise Gammal, director of research and evaluation at the United Way, joined us to explain how 211 works.

Top five reasons women turn to 211:

1. For referrals to specialty info lines (domestic violence, suicide hotline)

2. Housing (emergency shelter, homeless, affordable housing)

3. Food (food banks, soup kitchens, apply food stamps; also to volunteer at one of these places)

4. Public benefits (Medi-Cal, taxes, food stamps)

5. Health (healthcare, mental health, support groups, diseases, dental)

What is 211?

211 is an easy to remember telephone number that, where available, connects people with important community services and volunteer opportunities. The implementation of 211 is being spearheaded by United Ways and comprehensive and specialized information and referral agencies in states and local communities. United Way of America (UWA) and the Alliance for Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) strongly support federal funding so that every American has access to this essential service.

Every hour of every day, someone in the United States needs essential services - from finding an after-school program to securing adequate care for a child or an aging parent. Faced with a dramatic increase in the number of agencies and help-lines, people often don't know where to turn. In many cases, people end up going without these necessary services because they do not know where to start. 211 helps people find and give help.

While services that are offered through 211 vary from community to community, 211 provides callers with information about and referrals to human services for every day needs and in times of crisis. For example, 211 can offer access to the following types of services:

* Basic Human Needs Resource: food banks, clothing closets, shelters, rent assistance, utility assistance.

* Physical and Mental Health Resources: health insurance programs, Medicaid and Medicare, maternal health, Children's Health Insurance Program, medical information lines, crisis intervention services, support groups, counseling, drug and alcohol intervention and rehabilitation.

* Employment Supports: financial assistance, job training, transportation assistance, education programs.

* Support for Older Americans and Persons with Disabilities: adult day care, congregate meals, Meals on Wheels, respite care, home health care, transportation, homemaker services.

* Support for Children, Youth and Families: childcare, after school programs, Head Start, family resource centers, summer camps and recreation programs, mentoring, tutoring, protective services.

* Volunteer Opportunities and Donations.

For more information, visit: www.211.org


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