Times are changing, and 2-1-1 is evolving with them. In February, United Way of Westchester and Putnam announced that callers to its 2-1-1 Helpline can now text message for assistance.
“We want people to be able to reach us in different ways. More and more people are using their fingers instead of their voices to talk,” said Alana Sweeny, president and CEO of United Way of Westchester and Putnam. She added that text messaging would be available from 2-6 p.m. initially and expanded once more funding is available.
Users can text their zip code to 898211 to text with a call specialist.
United Way’s 2-1-1 Call Center provides referral services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, through calls to 2-1-1 and online through 211hudson.org, to food assistance, housing and shelters, utilities, abuse prevention, suicide prevention, foster parenting, medical help and more.
Sweeny said adding text messaging would target a younger audience, as well as provide quicker access to help in emergencies like hurricanes and power outages.
Launched in 2006, the United Way’s 2-1-1 has grown exponentially in 12 years, receiving more than 80,000 calls in 2018.
Call specialists have an expansive database at their fingertips that they can use to search out resources by zip code. They also have access to a service that can translate 200 languages, from Swahili to Mandarin. Several call specialists are also fluent in Spanish, which is the second most common language spoken by callers.