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Calls to 211 helpline grew by 7,000 last year

Stephen Huba
| Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, 3:36 p.m.
The Union Mission, a shelter in Latrobe, offers accommodations and services for homeless men.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
The Union Mission, a shelter in Latrobe, offers accommodations and services for homeless men.

Seven thousand more calls were made to the 211 United Way helpline in 2017 than the year before, the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania said on Thursday.

In 2017, more than 199,000 Pennsylvanians turned to 211 for help, including 81,033 people from 11 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Sunday is PA 2-1-1 Day, which is held to draw attention to the services that are available to people who call the helpline.

“People contact 211 mainly to find help with basic needs: food, shelter and utility assistance,” said Bobbi Watt Geer, United Way regional vice president. “But they also call for everyday information, like how to get their taxes done for free or how to find job training.”

In 2017, the top needs of 211 callers in Westmoreland and Fayette Counties included utility payment assistance, food pantry access and rent payment assistance.

“The increase in contacts shows that more people are reaching out for help and accessing the services they're eligible for in their communities,” Watt Geer said. “But it also means that there's more work to do. Too many of our neighbors still need our help to cover their basic essentials, things no one should ever be without — food, heat, water.”

More than 6,000 people in Westmoreland County contacted 211 for help in the past year, which includes calls, texts and chat messages received on .

Contacts totaled more than 1,000 in Fayette County, 755 in Armstrong County and 45,106 in Allegheny County.

Calls to 211 are fielded by trained information and referral operators 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Operators help callers determine the best way to access the services they need.

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania serves Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette and southern Armstrong counties. It has provided referral services to local residents through 211 since 2011, although the program was first launched by the United Way in Atlanta more than 20 years ago.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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