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National 2-1-1 day celebrates United Way's 211 Helplink phone service

Ohio United Way study shows growing working poor
Posted at 3:47 PM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 08:15:49-05

For Northeast Ohioans, help is just a phone call away. Thursday is National 2-1-1 Day (a nod to the date: 2/11), celebrating the workers behind United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 Helplink.

Since the pandemic started nearly a year ago, Helplink’s call volume has nearly doubled, with people on the other end of the line looking for assistance with everything from rent, to legal services, to where to find a new washer and dryer.

The biggest needs are food, housing, and utilities.

“There’s a lot of need out there,” said Franco Formichelli, director of 2-1-1 Helplink. “A lot of first time people [are] calling us, saying ‘[I’ve] never had to use you before, do you have some guidance for me?’”

When someone calls, a Helplink navigator will ask what they need and direct them toward resources in their community that can fill that need. For example, if a caller needs food, the navigator will find the closest food bank.

However, it doesn’t stop there. Formichelli says navigators are trained to do a full assessment, asking questions to see if the caller may need help in other areas as well.

“We try to get a good picture of what their needs are,” he said. “And then from there, we work with the individual to cater to them, to what they want, and offer them the resources within the county.”

These days, a good chunk of their calls are about where to find a COVID-19 vaccine. They can provide assistance with eligibility questions, finding a vaccine provider, or even registering for a vaccine appointment.

Formichelli says the pandemic has shined a light on just how important their work is within the community.

“This is what we do,” he said. “We help people in times of need.”

He emphasized that no problem is too small. If you have an issue that you need help solving, visit their website or just dial 2-1-1.