Info Line is making it easier for Summit County residents to find and access basic needs assistance by adding texting capability to its 2-1-1 information service. 2-1-1 OnDemand allows people to receive referrals for food and utility assistance via text so they don’t have to use valuable phone minutes. The service also helps free up Info Line’s 2-1-1 staff so they can spend time answering phone calls that are more in-depth.
“In 2016, Info Line 2-1-1 received nearly 40,000 requests for food and utility assistance by phone,” said Richard Stahl, CEO/executive director at Info Line. “But many lower-income Americans have limited phone minutes and unlimited texting. This information combined with preferences among people 55 and under for texting, led us to explore ways to use texting within a non-profit setting.”
How it works
Summit County residents can text “Info Line” to 898211 if they need food or utility assistance. They will then be prompted to text their zip code, the service they want, and, if seeking food, the day of the week they want to go to a food pantry. The service pulls from Info Line’s live 2-1-1 database (www.211summit.org) and lists resources that are currently available.
“Many people don’t realize how challenging it is to know what organizations are open and available on the day they need assistance,” said Tanya Kahl, vice president of strategy and development at Info Line. “We are continuously updating our resource database to make sure we have the most accurate information available.”
A majority of funding for the project came from an anonymous area foundation. Additional funding came from United Way of Summit County.
Over the coming year, Info Line plans to expand text messaging to its other programs, including the Homeless Hotline, MedAssist, Child Care Connection and Lifeline.
With the addition of 2-1-1 OnDemand, Info Line now offers three ways to find local resources in Summit County:
- Dial 2-1-1 or (330) 376-6660 to speak with a highly trained staff member or volunteer who will provide individualized assistance 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
- Text “Info Line” to 898211 for help with food or utilities.
- Search online at http://211summit.org.
Individuals living outside of Summit County can visit www.211.org to find out more about their local 2-1-1.
Info Line across the United States
The release of 2-1-1 OnDemand coincides with February 11th (2/11), known as “2-1-1 Day” across the United States. 2-1-1 is a free and confidential service that helps people across the United States and Canada find the local resources they need. Whereas 9-1-1 is there for emergencies, 2-1-1 helps provide information and resources for nearly any other need – food, clothing, shelter, utilities, health care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, transportation, and services for older adults, children, families, ex-offenders.
Across the United States, 2-1-1 answered more than 13 million requests for help in 2016, including providing 3.9 million connections to housing or utility assistance, 2 million connections to physical or mental health services, and 1.3 million connections to food assistance.
In 2016, Info Line responded to 65,786 requests for help through 2-1-1 and its Emergency Food Line. In addition, there were over 100,000 visits to Info Line’s online resource database. By adding referrals via text messaging, Info Line hopes to make referrals even more accessible to people in need.
Clients who have used Text OnDemand
Info Line completed a follow-up call with two clients that had been referred to the On-Demand text service. Both clients were thrilled with the ability to get the information so quickly. The first client said, “It was perfect! It actually went through and everything.” Another client said, “It was real convenient. It just showed up immediately.”
“United Way is pleased to be a partner in expanding 2-1-1 assistance via text messaging in Summit County so that accessing help is faster and easier than ever,” said Jim Mullen, United Way of Summit County President and Chief Executive Officer. “Promoting the success of struggling families is at the core of our mission. 2-1-1 is an extremely valuable resource for families who find themselves in a ‘situational crisis’ — losing a job, a car breaking down, a medical illness or facing any number of small roadblocks that can send them careening into a downward spiral.”
“Info Line is constantly looking at new ways to use technology to better meet our mission of connecting people to services,” said Richard Stahl, President and CEO of Info Line.
Info Line helps tens of thousands of northeast Ohio residents annually secure services essential for living safe, healthy and successful lives. We coordinate access among agencies and act as a central clearinghouse to get people the help they need. Our services include 2-1-1 Information and Referral, Child Care Connection, Housing Services, Lifeline and MedAssist.