Who you gonna call? 211 info


By Sue Cody



Sarah Brown 211 infoWhat if you suddenly lost your job and found you didn’t have enough food to feed your family this month? Who would you call? What if you needed help paying your bills or were in crisis and needed mental health services?



One call can take you to the nearest place to serve your needs. It is called 211 info. It can be accessed by telephone, website, email, app or text. It is available in every Oregon county and Clark and Skamania counties in Washington.



North Coast resident Sarah Brown is the community engagement coordinator for Clatsop, Tillamook and Columbia counties. She is updating the database and serves as the local contact for social service and health agencies.



“I am excited about partnering with Clatsop Community Action and other local agencies,” Brown said in an interview. “There is so much need here and there is so much help available.”



The 211 info website offers the same information as the call center, which is located in Portland.



By telephone, the caller will be asked what kind of assistance is needed. With basic information about household zip code, occupants and income, people can learn if they qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women Infant and Children (WIC) and other services.



“We assess needs immediately and see which programs people qualify for and if funds are available,” Brown said.



On the website, under “Search,” there is an extensive list of needs, such as:

• I am in crisis

• I need shelter

• I need food

• I need basic resources

• I need help paying bills

• I need transportation

• Youth mental health

• Abuse intervention



After choosing a need, the website helps the searcher define the specific type of assistance required.



For instance, if one chooses, “I need shelter,” the next screen shows:

• Domestic violence shelter

• Drop-in/day center

• Severe weather shelter

• Temporary shelter

• Transitional housing

• Youth shelter/housing



Choosing one of those options will lead to actual shelters with information on the name, address, hours of operation, phone number, website, distance from your location, email address, map, rules and regulations.






The 211 telephone number was approved by the FCC in 2000 to connect people to social services. It was implemented in the Portland metro area in 2004 and in 2009 expanded to include all 36 Oregon counties.



This year, the health care nonprofit CareOregon supplied a grant to hire a community engagement coordinator for the Northwest region. In this position, Brown’s responsibility is to build relationships and coordinate efforts with government, nonprofits, health care and other service providers to ease access to resources already in place.



“Calls peak around the holidays,” Brown said. Statewide, between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2014, there were 42,874 caller needs. In Clatsop, Tillamook and Columbia counties, there were 225 calls. Rental help was the most requested service, followed by shelter, electricity and SNAP assistance.



Statistics for the state and each region are available on the website under “Reports.”



Who is calling?



“Middle class people are calling, it’s not just the homeless,” Brown said. “Say you are suddenly out of a job, and for the time being you need assistance. Call 211. People there will tell you who to contact, who to call, when to apply and the best times to contact them.”



“There is great need – especially in Clatsop County,” Brown said. “It is not as visible or in your face, but the need is there. Assistance is available and we can point you in the right direction.” The average call is only about 4 minutes long, Brown said.



Donations for assistance are accepted on the website. Donations support the nonprofit 211 info in giving free referrals to health and social services, and a network of homeless service providers.



Providers may contact Brown at sarah.brown@211info.org or 503-440-6032.



Telephone (toll free): 211

Website: http://211info.org/

Text: Your Zip Code to 898211

Email: info@211info.org