Area residents have a free resource available to assist with a variety of necessities in everyday life.
The resource, the United Way 2-1-1 Information and Referral Call Center, has been available in Carroll County since June 2013 but many do not utilize it. United Way’s website states, “United Way’s 2-1-1 is your first call for help.” The program links Carroll County residents to health and human service information and referral resources by simply dialing 2-1-1. The service is available 24 hours a day; seven days a week; 365 days a year.
During a get-together in December organized by Carroll County Commissioner Tom White, the group discussed avenues to inform the public of 2-1-1’s value. Those in attendance included Connie Ault, director for the United Way of Greater Stark County 2-1-1- Call Center; John McFall, director of Family and Children First Council; Ollie Scott, supervisor of Carroll Golden Age Retreat; and Kate Offenberger, director of Carroll County Job and Family Services.
Ault explained the service is available to residents in Carroll, Coshocton, Harrison, Jefferson, Stark, Tuscarawas and Washington counties. Residents call the center and give the operator their location zip code. The program shows information geared toward the location of the caller for agencies and programs in the area.
According to Ault, the center received 43,000 calls and made 74,000 referrals in 2014. The top three caller concerns were housing, food and help with utilities. Calls from Carroll County only make up one percent of the requests and of the one percent, over a fourth of the calls were housing-related. With the influx of the gas and oil industry, housing issues is one of the main issues Carroll County is facing; higher rent and availability, noted White.
Ault feels the low number of calls from Carroll County is due to the fact the public is not aware of the service. White said he questioned doctors in the area and found they were not aware of the program.
“We need to bring awareness to this program,” he stated. “It is a wonderful program. 211 can help with a housing situation whether total homelessness or issues due to low-income.”
The amount of usage has increased slightly from 25 people receiving emergency assistance in 2014 to 11 just through the third quarter of 2015.
What is 2-1-1?
United Way of Greater Stark County’s 2-1-1 Information and Referral program is a free, confidential help line to direct callers to health and human service agencies and programs.
According to 2-1-1 link on United Way’s website, the database has over 800 assistance organizations that can be searched by name, zip code, city, keywords or by type of assistance needed. Categories include basic need, consumer services, criminal justice and legal services, education, environmental quality, health care, income support and employment, individual and family life, mental health and substance abuse services, organizational/community/international services and target populations, among other things. An alphabetized listing offers many other options from alcohol dependency issues to respite care subsidies to work safety education.
Criteria in the database is reviewed on a regular basis in order to ensure the changing needs of the community are being met and includes government, non-profit and critical for profit organizations.
Emergency assistance is also offered to Carroll County through the 2-1-1 program from funding provided by Aultman Hospital and Chesapeake Energy. Guidelines to receive emergency assistance for rent, mortgage or utility assistance are listed on the website.
Spreading the Word
The group discussed ways to inform the public of the 2-1-1 system. White questioned sending letters to area churches because part-time pastors are often in the area for brief periods of time and are not familiar with available assistance. Other options the group discussed included inserts in church bulletins, supplying law enforcement officials with information and possibly a proclamation of “2-1-1 Referral Month”.
Anyone needing assistance with rent, utilities, food, clothing, or other issues, can call 2-1-1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Information can be found on the website at www.uwstark.org. Scroll down the page and click on 2-1-1 listed under the “Our Impact” heading.