2-1-1 Assistance During Hurricane Irma

Like most Marion County residents, Chloe Smith* had been out of power for an entire week which left her exhausted, frustrated, and without food for her family. Although she had bought goods that would be sustainable without power, those were now gone and she had no money to replenish her pantry or fridge due to not being able to work during the storm. She turned to 2-1-1 for assistance.
 
2-1-1 is United Way’s free information and referral service that assists individuals in need with assistance from more than 2,000 local health and human service programs. Staffed by caring, highly trained, multilingual operators, 2-1-1 helps individuals with services for utilities, housing, food, youth and childcare issues, physical and mental health services, elder services, employment services and much more.
 
Chloe had reached out to the Department of Children and Families for Disaster Food Stamps, but was told she didn’t qualify because she was not a general Food Stamp recipient. Being denied essential assistance for her family left Chloe feeling abandoned and distraught. When she reached 2-1-1 she was feeling helpless and guarded. The 2-1-1 Specialist validated Chloe’s concerns and explored other options for food assistance that she wasn’t familiar with and even gave her information on employment compensation since she missed work due to the hurricane.
 
After Chloe spoke with the 2-1-1 Specialist she requested that she be transferred directly to a supervisor so that she could express how thankful she was for 2-1-1. Chloe told the supervisor that not only was she grateful for the Specialist going above and beyond with providing needed information; she also appreciated being heard and spoken to with respect as she had not had the same experience anywhere else.
United Way’s 2-1-1 help line was ready to help Marion County residents with hurricane assistance. For 13 days before and after the storm, 2-1-1 received 1,242 calls which is slightly less than the amount of calls that 2-1-1 receives in a month. Of those calls that 2-1-1 received, 65% were related to disasters only (FEMA, food stamps, food pantries, water, hotel, hurricane shelter). However, that percentage increases when taking into account that a large portion of the remaining callers were seeking help with rent or electric due not being able to make the payments because of missing work or purchasing hurricane preparedness supplies in regards to Hurricane Irma.
 
*name changed to protect client privacy.