Every so often -- a lot, actually -- I feel enormous gratitude for the various safety nets that exist for vulnerable people. People like Benjy. Like our family. Thank God, or the gods, or the Darwinan principle that caused humans to develop a tendency toward empathy and social justice, for things like social security, and Medicaid, and yes, the dreaded Food Stamps. A lot of people would be hungry without them. And being hungry is not fun.
So I wanted to give a shout out to the United Way and its 2-1-1 service. Good stuff there. You can read the press release for National 2-1-1 Day on February 11th, below. This is specific to Massachusetts but I believe the general principle applies nationally.
For Immediate Release:
National United Way 2-1-1 Awareness Day
February 8, 2012
Every hour of every day, people need essential human services - they are
looking for training, employment, food pantries, help for an aging parent,
addiction prevention programs for their teenage children, affordable housing
options, child care options, support groups and ways of becoming part of
2-1-1 allows people to give help and to get help.
2-1-1 is an easy to remember telephone number that connects people with
important community services and volunteer opportunities.
In 2010, 2-1-1 services in the United States answered more than 16.4 million
On February 11, (2/11) 2-1-1 centers across the nation will celebrate
National United Way 2-1-1 Awareness Day to highlight the vital role this
service plays in communities across the nation. Currently, over 86% of the
U.S. population has access to a 2-1-1 service.
2-1-1 is available to all residents of Massachusetts.
In Massachusetts in 2011, Mass 211 handled over 82,000 direct calls from
individuals and families looking for connection to services. There was an
additional 100,000+ searches on the public database available at
The top calls to Mass 211 in 2011 included housing-related calls
(eviction/foreclosure prevention, homeless shelters), food-related (food
pantries and food stamps-SNAP), and utility bill payment assistance.
A caller to 2-1-1 will reach a trained Information and Referral Specialist
who will help them prioritize their needs, explore the options and programs
that are available and make referrals to services that will best fit the
caller's needs. 2-1-1 I&R specialists empower callers by educating them
about programs so that informed decisions can be made.
In order to provide the most accurate resource information available, Mass
211 maintains a comprehensive, continually updated database of health and
human services. This database contains information on basic needs, programs
for youth and older adults, substance abuse treatment resources, health
services and more. Mass 211 is part of a statewide network of
community-based Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies that help match
families with Early Education and Care Educators and other resources that
help children grow and learn. Mass 211 Specialists screen families for child
care subsidy eligibility and add qualified families to the state's wait
list. Mass 211 also serves as the Commonwealth's primary telephone
information call center during times of emergency.
2-1-1 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by dialing 2-1-1 or
Calls to 2-1-1
are confidential and anonymous. Translation and TDD/TTY services are
available. Mass 211 is a program of your local United Way.