The basics of 2-1-1

How this resource helps the community

When you’re in a crisis, having a place to contact can make all the difference. For local individuals in need, there’s a resource like this where you can pick up the phone and talk to someone who will guide you and refer you to services you need – it’s called 2-1-1.

What is 2-1-1?

2-1-1 is a referral line accessed by phone. Locally, the 2-1-1 line is staffed during normal business hours, Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Individuals can dial 2-1-1 from any phone to be connected to a referral specialist who can direct them to whatever services they might need. The biggest needs year-over-year are for food, utility assistance and rent assistance.

The history of 2-1-1

2-1-1 initially was launched in Atlanta in 1997. It quickly expanded across the United States, with the Federal Communications Commission approving 2-1-1 specifically for use from coast to coast in 2000.

While the local 2-1-1 line works with local resources, 2-1-1 programs exist at United Ways across the country. In fact, about 94 percent of the population in the U.S. has access to a 2-1-1 line.

How it works

2-1-1 is always ready as a first line of assistance for a person in need. However, United Way does not provide direct services via 2-1-1. Callers are referred to United Way partner agencies or community partners, based on their need, who will provide them with the needed service or resources. Callers can expect to give some personal information, identify their need and then be guided on next steps. A few services and resources include:

These services and resources include:

  • supplemental food assistance and nutrition programs
  • homeless shelter and temporary housing options
  • utilities assistance
  • emergency information and disaster or emergency relief
  • employment opportunities
  • education opportunities
  • services for veterans
  • health care, vaccination, and health epidemic information
  • addiction prevention and rehabilitation programs
  • reentry assistance for newly released offenders
  • support groups for individuals with mental illnesses
  • support groups for individuals with substance abuse or addiction issues
  • a safe, confidential path out of physical or emotional domestic abuse

To learn more about 2-1-1 from a referral specialist directly, check out this video featuring United Way of Greater Chattanooga employee, Tim Chavis.

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