By Jen Jabas, director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties

Every day, people struggle to find affordable childcare, access healthcare, buy healthy food, and secure a job that pays the bills and other essential needs. 211 is an unmatched, critical service here to help.

211 is a phone number operated and supported by many United Ways to ensure every person has access to the critical resources in their community. 211 exemplifies United Way’s fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. By connecting people in need with the best resources available to them, 211 helps make the social services ecosystem more efficient and effective so resources can go further.

Through 211, clients can access free resources for confidential crisis and emergency counseling, disaster assistance, food, health care and insurance assistance, stable housing and utilities payment assistance, employment services, veteran services and childcare and family services. No matter the situation, the specialists at 211 listen, identify underlying problems, and connect people in need with community resources and services that improve their lives. 211 is free, accessible 24/7/365, completely confidential and available in multiple languages providing expert, caring help to people who are in need of resources and support. Let’s break it down:

What is 211?

211 is a vital service to communities across the nation. Every day, people contact 211 to access free and confidential crisis and emergency counseling, disaster assistance, food, health care and insurance assistance, stable housing and utilities payment assistance, employment services, veteran services and childcare and family services.

What does 211 do?

No matter the situation, the specialists at 211 listen, identify underlying problems, and connect people in need with resources and services in their community that improve their lives. 211 answers calls, texts, chats and emails, helping people with life-changing support.

Why does 211 matter?

211 does more than connect people to agencies. Instead, 211 specialists are trained to identify root causes of a client’s problem – and connect them with a wide range of available resources that meet all the underlying needs, not just the one that prompted the call, text or email. It’s a vital part of United Way’s efforts to build stronger communities and fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. 211 makes the social services ecosystem/network more efficient by ensuring people in need are connected to agencies that can help them.

How can we ensure that 211 is successful?

211 is only able to provide resources and referrals to people who call if the information has been updated in the system. In order to provide the best possible service to those who call, it is important that the information in the database is up to date. Organizations who would like to be included in the 211 database should follow the following steps:

  1. Call 2-1-1 (Just three numbers), and let whoever answers know they would like to get their organization listed in the database – they will then be transferred to a member of the Resource staff

  2. Submit a form on the 211 website with a request https://www.211unitedway.org/contact/ - organizations will then be contacted by a member of the 211 Resource staff

Help Minnesotans find your organization by providing 211 with information about your service offerings. Your efforts will ensure those who contact 211 looking for services like yours will not only be told about your organization, but understand program eligibility requirements, how/when/where to access your programs and what documents to bring with them, as applicable.

How can we help?

Tell others about 211. This is a service that is available 24/7/365 and can reduce barriers by providing a confidential resource for local connections to services at any time of day.

In this community, we are connected. 211 is not the only resource for individuals and families to utilize. Nonprofits in our community are connected and work collaboratively and collectively to make an impact in the lives of people who live here every day.

Here are some of the ways:

Coalitions and initiatives – we come together through local coalitions and initiatives to create change.

Area Executive Director Networking Group – nonprofit executive directors meet to discuss current and relevant topics to better serve our community.

United Way Community Impact Coalition – nonprofits meet monthly to create long lasting impact in our community in the areas of health, education and financial stability by serving as a resource in identifying and meeting community needs, as well as being a resource to one another.

Most importantly, we work together! We listen to each other, respect each other, support each other, and we collaborate to provide the most effective and efficient support systems to serve others to the best of our ability. We are a resource to you.

Jen Jabas is the director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.