Hundreds call 211 over 6 days for help with weather-related issues

A 211 operator works Jan. 3, 2017, at the Connect2Help211 center in Indianapolis. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – As colder temperatures stick around, one local nonprofit organization has been very busy.

The director at Connect2Help211 said its phones have been ringing around the clock. They’ve gotten hundreds of calls related to the weather in just the past few days.

The organization connects people with available resources in the area.

“211 is the 911 for human services,” said Executive Director Ann Hartman.

They deal with everything from food and job assistance to domestic violence situations, but right now most of the calls are weather-related.

“Just since in the last few days, since the cold weather really hit, we’ve had over 1,000 calls for utility help and that could be anything from ‘I need to get my heat on,’ ‘I need to pay my heat bill,’ or it could be ‘I need a space heater’ or ‘I don’t have any heat at all and I need to go to an emergency shelter.’ … So, we want to get the message out that if folks need to be in a warm place, you can call 211 and we can connect them to a resource that can help them,” Hartman said.

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, the center had received 1,079 weather-related calls since Friday. Of those, 858 were for utility assistance and 146 were people seeking shelters and warming centers.

Forty-two people need help with weatherization and 23 with furnace repair. Another 10 needed space heaters or winter coats.

“It says that there are a lot of folks who are living on the brink. There are a lot of folks living paycheck to paycheck. A lot of folks who need help,” Hartman said.

She said about 70 percent of the people who call the 211 center end up using the resources recommended to them, getting the help they need.

“By the time they call us, they are overwhelmed. They are scared. A lot of folks have families and they have kids and jobs, and their kids have to get to school and, by the way, they don’t have heat at their house, so it is overwhelming, but it is a relief to know that there are resources available,” Hartman said.

If you need help with any type of human services situation, you can call 211. The call centers are open 24/7. To learn more about the program or to find out how you can help, visit their website.