With an economy that is slowly recovering from being in shambles, more and more people are turning to various agencies for assistance. In July 2011, the United Way introduced its Pa 2-1-1 Southwest hotline, a nationally recognized hotline, like that of 9-1-1, where individuals can call one number to access a database of more than 5,000 human services programs around the clock.
Now, almost two years since its inception, the United Way is taking their hotline to the information super highway with its recent launching of the Pa 2-1-1 website.
“The way the world is today, not everyone wants to call so we are very pleased to be able to connect people with help on a broader (scale),” said Julia DeSeyn, director of Pa 2-1-1 Southwest.
Since the beginning, the Pa- 2-1-1 hotline, which is available in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Fayette, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland counties, has seen a steady increase in its call volume. In 2012, the hotline served 31,694 callers, which was a 21 percent increase from the year before. And according to DeSeyn, in January of this year, the hotline served 4,400 individuals, which was double what they did in December 2012.
DeSeyn said, “A previous study (found) people were calling five to seven places to find agencies. It (the hotline and website) saves people time and frustration.” Individuals will be able to search the website by county, need, agency location, or event agency name.
According to the United Way, most of the calls from individuals in Allegheny County were from the North Side, East Liberty, Mt. Oliver, Wilkinsburg and McKeesport. From the more than 31,000 calls received last year, top needs in Allegheny County were assistance with gas and electric payments, foreclosures, finances and locating food pantries.
With its annual increasing volumes, DeSeyn said their goal for the future is to have 80,000 calls by the end of this year, and 150,000 calls and 300,000 web inquires by the end of 2014. They also hope to expand their resources to include Beaver, Greene, Indiana and Lawrence counties.
With the numbers they are seeing, DeSeyn said, “I think we are well on track.”
(For human resources available, call 2-1-1 or visit www.pa211sw.org.)