211 is a Lifeline for America's Everyday Emergencies


You’ve heard of dialing 911 for emergencies. But what about 211?

In a recent interview with the Sun Times News, Jerome Espy, Senior Director of Communications & Media Relations for the United Way of Southeastern Michigan, explained the critical role the 211 service provides and has provided for many people.

In 2023, the service connected 315,700 calls to needed services in Southeast Michigan, 10,590 of which were in Washtenaw County.

Espy says, “We know what 9-1-1 is. This is the same type of thing. People can call 2-1-1 for a different set of emergency services. We get them connected to the resource they need.” The service is a 24/7 resource helping people across 99% of the U.S. and Canada.

Responding to over 20 million requests annually, 211 addresses a wide array of basic needs, including food and nutrition programs, housing and utility assistance, emergency and disaster relief, employment, education, veterans' services, healthcare, addiction rehabilitation, support for ex-offenders, mental health support, and domestic abuse escape paths. The service is easily accessible via phone or online at 211.org.

The 211 service, Espy detailed, is the country's most comprehensive source of local resources and services. It is staffed by thousands of caring, local experts who are available around the clock. The confidentiality and anonymity of calls to 211 are assured, providing a safe and trustworthy avenue for assistance.

Espy shared the service's impact in Southeast Michigan. “Daily, we get about 750 calls into the 2-1-1 call center for Southeast Michigan. That’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.

He emphasized that anyone can call. Callers are not limited to those below the federal poverty line but include working individuals struggling to meet their basic needs. “The top request, you know, it's like transportation, utility payments, rent, food, and community shelters," Espy noted.

“The great thing is, if you have a need, you can call,” he added. “It's not limited by income, location, zip code, or area code. Whoever calls, they get the help.”

Espy also highlighted specific programs under 211. One example is the Michigan Energy Assistance Program, which assists people with utility payments and offers solutions like partial bill payments and payment plans. He emphasized the holistic approach of 211, often uncovering multiple needs during a single call. “They may call us for utilities, but we find out they also need food, transportation, ways to bridge the gap,” Espy said.

“You never know when you might need help,” concluded Espy. “But when you need help, you need help.”

Find out more at https://www.211.org/

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