Monday February 11 is National 2-1-1 Day, calling attention to the program that connects residents with services. It's available in most of the state outside of Chicago.
"Unlike 9-1-1 that we're so familiar with that reports an emergency or something of that nature, this is simply for health and human services as well as governmental information and referrals," said John Kelker, President of the United Way of Central Illinois, which funds the effort.
A live operator, trained to help callers, can connect a person with housing or utility assistance, for example. But it goes beyond just providing contact information.
" If you're having trouble as a family with utility bills, there's a good chance that there may be food issues in the home. There may be other issues in terms of 'do we have next month's rent?", said Kelker. "We're finding that a single call can oftentimes learning link into multiple referrals so that people know the resources that are around them."
2-1-1 can also be helpful in crisis moments, like after a natural disaster or in cases of domestic violence.
Why does the United Way support it?
"United Ways across the country are the largest private funders of Health and Human Services," he said. "So it seemed natural, how do we connect those people in need, with the resources?"
Kelker adds having a human answer a call and ask follow up questions make the service more valuable that simply listing information on a website. "When it comes to elgibility issues, our trained operators know that. So that you don't either get in your car or get a cab ride to a place that you're simply not eligible for."
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