There are tens of thousands of stories encountered by the 211 staff each year. Here are a few of them.
A 2-1-1 call specialist received a call and asked how many individuals lived in the home. After counting, the client stated there were 19 people including 15 children living in a two family household. The wage earners were temporarily out of work. The call specialist asked if they were receiving any type of assistance, and the client stated that they had never needed any help before so she didn’t know how to find out if they qualified. The call specialist informed her of the different agencies and programs that were available in her area. She was glad to know of the services and said she would call back if they needed any other assistance. 2-1-1 was able to help 19 people with one call. Accurate and appropriate information empowers the community.
Larry suddenly began losing his eyesight. As his sight decreased, Larry faced a myriad of problems. Larry lost his job and was facing hunger and homelessness. He had no idea where to go for help. The man who never asked for help reluctantly called 2-1-1 and call specialist was able to get him help with food, housing, and specific support for individuals with blindness and other disabilities. The resources Larry needed were not available in the phone book, even if he could see it. 2-1-1 allows resources to become easily accessible to everyone.
Lisa, an elderly woman, was being physically abused by her care giver, including severe burns to hear arm. She was too scared to call Adult Protective Services (APS) but had been given a 2-1-1 card from a helpful neighbor who encouraged her to dial 2-1-1 and report her trouble. Our 2-1-1 call specialist, Ana, was able to calm Lisa down and help her feel comfortable with the idea of reporting the abuse. But, Lisa was still too afraid to make the call herself so she asked Ana to do it for her. Ana called APS, made the report, and learned that an investigation would commence immediately. When Ana phoned back to tell her of this progress, Lisa said she very much appreciated the help.
Because of the investment that makes 2-1-1 possible, more abuse is reported and investigated. Our communities are safer. Our families and friends are healthier and happier.
“Remember those 2-1-1 cards you gave us?”
Liz Gersten, Desert Communities United Way Board Member and teacher at Victor Valley College, always hands out 2-1-1 cards in her classes. A former student came up to her recently and said, “Remember those 2-1-1 cards you gave us?” Liz nodded. The former student indicated she had given one to a friend who was very depressed, and increasingly suicidal. Liz asked how the friend was doing. The student looked up, smiled and said, “Ms. Gersten, all I can say is, that she is still alive.”
“At the time of her husband’s death she had no money to pay for his funeral and burial.”
“Earlier this year I received information through a Board of Supervisors contact regarding a Transitional Assistance customer whose husband had just passed away after a long battle with cancer. The customer was left a large family to support and she was limited on resources. At the time of her husband’s death she had no money to pay for his funeral and burial. I contacted 2-1-1 and the operator was very helpful in providing several contacts that could possibly assist with the cost. Ultimately the customer received assistance and was able to see her husband buried with the dignity he deserved. I credit 2-1-1 with being available to provide the necessary resources to people in need. I have since been able to utilize the services of 2-1-1 for other customer referrals, including household appliance resources for single parents, and food banks for hungry families and individuals.”
Deputy Director, Region IV San Bernardino County Transitional Assistance Dept
(These are the actual words as related to the audience at the 211 5th anniversary celebration.)
Thank you for inviting me here today, I bring a unique experience of 211 and have been asked to share it with you.
Mr. Madden came to my Soroptimist Club to educate us about 211, never realizing that some of us already had used the services. In fact the day he was there was exactly five years to the date my life changed dramatically. While I was at work that morning, the police served a search warrant on my home and arrested my now ex-husband. I was thrown into a world I had no knowledge of. But I was fortunate in that I had a friend who was able to guide me through the court system as I learned to file a restraining order and deal with the family court system and child support services. Yet, it would have been nice to know there were victims’ assistance programs that could have helped and protected my daughter and me without leaving us feeling so lost and alone.
Eventually, in the hallways of the district attorney’s office, I noticed the 211 signs but did not think they had anything to offer me. But I did always keep it in the back of my mind.
Fast forward a couple of years. Because the construction firm where I was employed as a controller ended when the firm folded and due to economic collapse, and because of an absurd clerical error, I found myself out of work with no unemployment benefits. This time there was no one there to help me. Scared, I did call 211 and learned that public assistance was available and that I should apply, which I did. Later I called about help with utilities and was told that again about different services. I applied for utility reduction programs, and finally when I asked about food, I learned of several food programs I qualified for.
Thankfully, I was able to find work a couple of months later. But I do believe that if I had had to worry about electrical bills and feeding my daughter, I might not have been able to focus on getting a new job.
I remember that making the first phone call was difficult but really very easy once I actually talked to someone, and I didn’t feel stupid or uncomfortable.
Since my experience, I recommend 211 to lots of people that I talk to in the course of my job and volunteer work. This service is not just for any one particular group of people but truly beneficial to many.
Therry Hansen is a CPA Candidate working at a local CPA firm in Upland, California