Dialing 211 connects the community to essential resources
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — 211 is a national informational and referral service and operates locally as a program of the Marshfield Area United Way.
The program connects people with information about their communities, particularly regarding essential services like housing, food, shelter, counseling, and more. Unlike 411, which a person might call to get the phone number of a business or information about what restaurants are in an area, 211 focuses more specifically on connecting people to services of fundamental need. 211 is not intended to serve in an emergency response capacity like 911.
In Wisconsin, 211 uses a statewide database that contains information on who provides services in each area of the state. By dialing 211, people in the Marshfield and surrounding areas are routed to specialists based in Wisconsin Rapids that identify what service callers may need and how to connect them with resources.
If a call is placed from the Marshfield area after the Rapids call center is closed for the day, the call is routed to a center in Milwaukee, which has access to the same database.
“The nice thing about being a statewide (database) is pretty much anyone can pull up the database for any area and answer questions that folks might have,” said Paula Jero, Marshfield Area United Way executive director.
The Wisconsin Rapids call center serves 14 counties in central Wisconsin, and 211’s database of information is also available online at getconnected211.org. Having the database online allows individuals to search for resources independently rather than calling in, if they choose.
Jero said that sometimes people who should be calling 211 will instead call 911 with a non-emergency issue.
“We really encourage people to call 211. It is a way to get good local information,” Jero said. “There’s all these services out there, but how do people know what they are and how to access them? And so that’s really the whole idea behind (211).”
211 also makes an effort to reconnect with those that use the service to check and see if those individuals were able to get the help or services they needed.
“We try to do that on a lot of our calls that we get. We try to follow up with folks,” Jero said.
Another service 211 provides is connecting people looking to volunteer in their communities with those opportunities.
“211 has two different purposes. It’s both to take resources and get connected,” Jero said. “They (211) can help get folks connected in to the volunteer realm as well (as connecting people with resources).”
In 2014, 595 calls were placed to 211 from the Marshfield area.
Why dial 211?
In 2013 these were the top 10 resources for which Marshfield residents called 211.
- Food pantries
- Electric service payment assistance
- Rent payment assistance
- Volunteer recruitment
- Housing authorities
- Free school supplies
- AARP tax aide program
- Aging and Disability Resource Center
- Homeless motel vouchers
- Low income housing