United Way’s 2-1-1 help line is the free, confidential, 24-hour information and referral service which connects 97 percent of Pennsylvanians with all the health and human services available to help. In 2017, over 199,000 Pennsylvanians turned to 2-1-1 for help. In our region, 2-1-1 calls for health and human services have more than doubled over the past three years, from approximately 2,800 in 2013-2014 to 7,400 in 2016-2017. Sixty percent of those calls were for homeless services and housing.
“People reached out to 2-1-1 to find information on basic needs, like heating or utility assistance, care for seniors or to find the closest food pantry,” Marc Rittle, vice president, Impact for United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, said. “But they also called for everyday information like where to take their child for developmental screening, or how to locate job training or how to schedule free tax filing support.”
In 2017, the top five needs 2-1-1 connected Pennsylvanians with included electric service payment assistance, VITA programs, rent payment assistance, food pantries and gas service payment assistance. 2-1-1 also partners with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and has been activated in times of emergencies, such as a substantial snowstorm or other natural disaster, to assist residents in need.
2-1-1 information and referral specialists are trained to listen, assess the situation, ask the appropriate questions and then refer the caller directly to the human services agency who will comprehensively address their needs. The 2-1-1 specialist explains how to access those services, availing a translation service for over 170 different languages, if needed.
United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley has been providing referral services since January 2012. The organization became a part of the national 2-1-1 program, which was launched by United Way in Atlanta over 20 years ago. The user-friendly, three-digit 2-1-1 number now serves more than 283 million Americans – more than 90 percent of our population – in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
United Ways have been long-standing supporters and the national leader of the 2-1-1 movement in Partnership with Alliance of Information and Referral Services. As the largest private funder of the 2-1-1 network in Pennsylvania, United Ways continue to strengthen and support 2-1-1 as another way to build stronger communities and create opportunities.