United Way observes 2-1-1 day as contacts for help continue to rise

Sunday, February 11 will mark PA 2-1-1 Day, which recognizes the life-changing connections made by Pennsylvania’s 2-1-1 human services helpline.

This year, the day will be observed as local calls to PA 2-1-1 continue to increase. In 2017, over 199,000 Pennsylvanians turned to 2-1-1 for help, including 81,033 people in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Locally, this reflects an increase of more than 7,000 contacts.

“People contact to 2-1-1 mainly to find help with basic needs – food, shelter and utility assistance,” said United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania regional vice president Bobbi Watt Geer. “But they also call for everyday information, like how to get their taxes done for free or how to find job training.”

In 2017, the top needs of PA 2-1-1 callers in Westmoreland and Fayette Counties included utility payment assistance, food pantry access and rent payment assistance.

“The increase in contacts shows that more people are reaching out for help and accessing the services they’re eligible for in their communities,” said Watt Geer. “But it also means that there’s more work to do. Too many of our neighbors still need our help to cover their basic essentials, things no one should ever be without – food, heat, water.”

Over 6,000 people in Westmoreland County contacted 2-1-1 for help in the last year – which includes calls, texts and chat messages received on pa211sw.org. In Fayette County, contacts totaled over 1,000.

2-1-1 contacts are fielded by specially trained information and referral operators – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Operators guide callers in how to access the most appropriate local services for their needs.

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania has provided referral services to local residents through 2-1-1 since 2011. The 2-1-1 program was first launched by United Way in Atlanta, GA over 20 years ago. Today, local 2-1-1 programs serve more than 90% of the U.S. population in all 50 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.