Individuals who wish they knew more about the resources available to those in need can get ahead of the game by memorizing three numbers: 2-1-1.
United Way of Bradley County VISTA Danielle Seals told the Kiwanis Club of Cleveland the three numbers would connect them to a social services information referral line.
“You’ll have a highly trained call specialist on the other side. They will take your information and they have a database full of resources,” she said. “They will find out what you need and make a referral based on your address, so you get something close to you, and based on your need.”
Information on services in Bradley County and Cleveland are sent to the Chattanooga-based information line via the Ocoee Regional Resource Guide. The Community Action Network, a United Way Initiative, has made it a mission to ask nonprofit organizations, churches and agencies to update their program information on a regular basis. This information will be sent to 2-1-1 on a weekly basis.
Seals explained how having the information in one place will simplify an individual’s search for services.
“If you are a case manager, you are sitting there working and [you] might get a call saying, ‘I need help with my utilities.’ Well, normally, [United Way] would send them to another agency in town which helps with utilities,” she said. “Maybe they get over to that agency and they find out [they need clothes].”
According to Seals, the cycle sometimes continues several rounds before an individual’s needs are met. She said 2-1-1 streamlines the process. The call specialists are trained to ask questions to get to the root of the problem. The specialists then provide several resource options to meet the needs of the individual.
Added Seals, “Case workers are then free to be able to focus on the mission and serve the people your mission says you will serve. That allows you to be a wise steward of your time and your energy and your resources.”
Call specialists at 2-1-1 track the address and needs of each individual who receives help. The information can then be placed on a map. Seals informed the gathered Kiwanians the data collection and mapping would provide the United Way and other community organizations with much-needed information.
“After we get enough information collected, we can go in by Zip Code and see what the needs in the area are,” she said. “So we can say, ‘This Zip Code over here had a high call for utilities,’ or, ‘This Zip Code over here needs food.’”
Data-driven decisions can then be made to focus specifically on those needs in the community.
The 2-1-1 service and the Ocoee Regional Resource Guide will also monitor the duplication of services.
Seals encouraged the Kiwanis Club and any agencies, churches and schools to learn more about the number and pass it along to those in need.