2015 Data for Mass 2-1-1 Shows Many Callers Looking for Help with Basic Needs

February 11, 2016

211_Massachusetts_2s_fulBOSTON — New data from Mass 2-1-1, a free health and human service referral line, shows that there were 28,460 calls for assistance in the Greater Boston, Merrimack Valley, North Shore and South Shore regions of Massachusetts in 2015.  Calls in 2015 overwhelmingly focused on accessing help for basic needs, including assistance with child care expenses, electric and heating payments, rental payments and searches for local food pantries, shelters and housing. Today is National 2-1-1 Day, an effort to raise awareness about this free information and referral service.

“No family in crisis should ever be more than one phone call away from help,” said Michael Durkin, president of United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley. “2-1-1 streamlines the process, by aggregating all of the resources throughout the state and making referrals to assistance easier. In a time when complex economic situations also give rise to a number of interrelated needs, we think 2-1-1 is essential.”

Statewide, 2-1-1 received 63,179 calls for assistance in 2015.  Launched in 2007 by United Ways across Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Association of Information & Referral Specialists (MAIRS), 2-1-1 can connect callers to range of services, including rental assistance, food banks, affordable housing, health resources, child care, after-school programs, elderly care, financial literacy, and job training programs.  The helpline is also available in every state across the country, generating over 15 million calls nationally in 2014.

Mass 2-1-1 is also the official hotline for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), during weather emergencies, homeland security issues or any other events as identified by the Governor. In addition, Mass 2-1-1 is under contract with the Executive Office of Health & Human Services (EOHHS) to serve as the official phone line for the Office of Early Education and Care (EEC for child Care) as well as the official hotline for Children Requiring Assistance (CRA) and the Runaway Assistance Program (RAP).

When you dial 2-1-1 (a free call), the call is routed to a trained information and referral specialist, who helps identify your need(s), then refers you to relevant human services, health or education resources from a comprehensive database. For example, in the case of a worker who has recently been laid off or whose hours have been reduced, the 2-1-1 specialist may share information about unemployment benefits, job search options, food stamps, food pantries, mortgage or rent help, utility assistance, counseling and other available resources.

The free service complements United Way’s work to increase economic opportunity for families in Massachusetts.  In addition to providing financial emergency assistance through its Family Fund, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley funds high-performing community-based organizations providing job training and placements, budget coaching and financial education and affordable housing and homelessness prevention.

United Way’s network of Financial Stability Centers in Boston, Quincy, Lawrence, Chelsea and Lynn provide financial coaching and a range of housing and employment services to low-income individuals. In 2015, these centers helped 202 people find jobs. In addition, clients saw a median increase of $469 in their monthly net income, a median increase of $3,588 in their net worth and a median increase of 31 points in credit scores.