On my way home I needed to pick up some items and dashed in a liquor store and about half way through I found myself crying! A homeless man asked me what the problem was and I said, “They are going to pull the plug on my dad tomorrow and I can’t even contact the doctor to talk to him about it!” The homeless man, said “Oh, you need to call 211, they will help you.”
And I said “They can’t possibly help me with this.” The homeless man said “Oh yes, they help with just about everything!” So the next morning I called 211 and someone on the line said they would help me. He called somewhere on my behalf with me and right after that the doctor called and we made a plan for my dad to recover…he is 81 years old now, in a wheelchair, but I have my dad… and I have 211 to thank.
Supporters celebrate one-year anniversary of county's 211 system
Santa Cruz Sentinel
July 22, 2011
By Kimberly White
Too many people suffer far longer than necessary before they're willing to reach out for help. But even now, 211 operators are on standby to alleviate that anxiety and provide the assistance they need.
"It's not easy to call and ask for help," Martina O'Sullivan, United Way's board president and director of community engagement at Dominican Hospital, acknowledged Thursday evening at the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County in Aptos.
She was among more than a dozen who gathered there to mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of the county's 211 system, which officially launched July 1, 2010.
O'Sullivan illustrated her point with a couple of real-life examples, including one woman who stopped by the home of a longtime customer who she hadn't seen in months. Once there, she discovered he lived with his disabled son, and both of them appeared to be hungry and in need of medical care.
The woman's neighbor suggested she call 211, and the operator put her in touch with the local Meals on Wheels and In-Home Support Services agencies.
Another woman, who had recently lost her job, needed help finding housing and food pantries. After calling 211, O'Sullivan continued, she was referred to the appropriate agencies, and is now employed at the food bank where she once came for sustenance.
Over the past 12 months, operators have put more than 5,000 families in touch with agencies that provide assistance with everything from emergency housing and paying utility bills to job help and food banks, according to Scotty Douglass, director of the county's regional 911 center.
According to Mary Lou Goeke, president of the United Way of Santa Cruz County, the county's 211 system has a budget of $101,000 per year, with funding provided by nearly 70 supporters, including First 5, Dominican Hospital and the cities of Watsonville, Santa Cruz and Capitola.
The 211 service first launched in Atlanta in 1997, and has since spread across the country. Douglass heard about it soon after the 2008 wildfires, when emergency operators were swamped with calls from residents about non-life-threatening situations.
With the idea that 211 could supplement the 911 center, Douglass approached Goeke.
"I love having 211 around," he said, adding, "What it really needed was a champion."
Goeke was up for the challenge, and worked for more than a year to get the system up and running. A large part of that involved obtaining a license from the California Public Utilities Commission, which also provides licenses for television and radio stations, and submitting hundreds of letters of support.
Barely a year old, 211 served as an important resource during several recent crises. In April, residents received calls with up-to-date information on a potential ammonia leak when the Apple Growers Ice & Cold Storage warehouse in Watsonville burned.
Callers were also kept up to speed on the most recent developments during the flooding in Capitola Village in late March, as well as when the tsunami hit the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor.
"They dispelled the myth that a 26-foot wave was coming over Watsonville," he added with a chuckle.
The 211 service is free and confidential, and available 24/7. For information, go to www.2-1-1santacruzcounty.com.