The United Way of the Midlands celebrated their 13th anniversary of service of their 211 Call Center. 211 is a “one stop shop” for information on food pantries, emergency housing to veterans’ services. Nearly 57,000 calls came into the Nebraska – Southwest Iowa center in 2015 and their website was accessed nearly 47,000 times.
Call Center Director Lena Thompson says, “When we initially started we started as a pilot with three counties. We now have the ability to cover the entire state of Nebraska, which is 93 counties and we cover nine counties in the southwest Iowa area.”
Their statistics show that in 2015, 29% of the calls into the center was for utility assistance. Twenty-three percent if their calls involved rent and 9% for food assistance. Information in the 211 database is updated annually and the staff makes a follow up call to about 5% of the line’s users to determine if their needs were met.
Most of the calls take three to five minutes and are answered by trained specialists. The specialist assesses the caller’s situation and identifies appropriate community based resources such as food pantries, emergency shelter, affordable counseling service, senior day programs and more. The center also provides advocacy for those needing extra support to access needed services.
Thompson says they hope to add text messaging services this year and looking at adding online chat services later this year or in early 2017.