As people continue to suffer economic hardships, such as unemployment, high gas prices, etc., there is now an ever-growing need for assistance. Well now there is a single place where individuals seeking assistance can get all the information needed, without having to spend a lot of time.
After six months of working on a limited basis, the United Way is now introducing the PA 2-1-1 Southwest hotline, a free human services hotline, which will now be fully operational and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Like 9-1-1 is nationally recognized for its emergency services, individuals will be able to dial 2-1-1 to speak to trained professionals and gain information to human services available in their area, services such as utility and eviction prevention, food, shelter and transportation assistance.
“The big thing (about the 2-1-1 hotline) is when people are in need they often do not know where to turn, they make numerous calls and often times get lost in the maze of the different agencies and phone numbers,” said Bob Nelkin, president of United Way Allegheny County. “By having one simple, easy to remember number, this will help people get assistance sooner.”
Right now, the hotline is available in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Fayette and Westmoreland counties. But Julie DeSeyn, director of PA 2-1-1 Southwest and Programs for Financially Struggling Adults & Families, United Way, says that over the next two-years, they hope to reach 11 counties in all.
DeSeyn said that the hotline is important not only because it is valuable for the community and it is an easy way for individuals to find many resources at one number, but also because this is a statewide network that can be used to figure out where people are being referred and a way to get live, very current data of where and why people are in need of help.
“This is important to community leaders also. The information can be used to help decision makers make more informed decisions about funding, to set-up emergency funds,” DeSeyn said.
Since its initial launch in July 2011, DeSeyn said there have been approximately 30,000 calls taken. And adds that she expects call volumes to rise, which they are ready for. Information gathered so far has found that most residents are calling about utilities, how to keep them from getting shut off; followed by eviction assistance; where to find food assistance, such as pantries; and then emergency shelters.
“This is not a specialty number and it is all inclusive. There is full-time staff dedicated to making sure that information is up to date,” said DeSeyn.
Pennsylvania is the 48th state to implement this hotline and a website is soon to follow.
For non-profits interested in getting their information in the PA 2-1-1 Southwest database, email firstname.lastname@example.org.