Education News

United Way’s 2-1-1 Helpline Hits 1 Million Call Record

Even before Harvey hit, they were bracing for the record because the number of calls has increased every year for several years

Anna Babin with the United Way of Greater Houston said that the top three needs received by the help center are: food, rent assistance and help to pay utilities.
Anna Babin with the United Way of Greater Houston said that the top three needs received by the help center are: food, rent assistance and help to pay utilities.

Earlier in December, United Way of Greater Houston hit a major milestone, reaching one million calls to its 2-1-1 helpline.

Still, the social services agency isn’t quite celebrating.

“I could brag about that. But I’m also very sad about it, because it just tells you there is so much unmet need,” said Anna Babin, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Houston, which manages the local 2-1-1 service for the state.

She said that the top thing callers need help with is food, followed by rent assistance and utilities.

The trained support specialists then connect callers with a comprehensive database of food pantries, shelters and other resources — all mapped to the caller’s ZIP code. They can answer calls in 200 languages as well.

Babin said that the kind of calls and the volume are telling.

“What it really reveals to me is this growing gap of income disparity,” she said. “And I think it is a wake-up call for the whole community that we need to channel our resources. We need to think and act collaboratively.”

She added that even before Harvey hit, they were bracing for the record because the number of calls has increased every year for several years.

 

 

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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