A lifeline in the COVID-19 crisis: United Way’s 2-1-1 HelpLink connects people and families to vital resources

Man with headset in front of computer

The COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effects have dramatically affected daily life in Greater Cleveland. As agencies and businesses close to the public or adjust the way they serve clients, it can be difficult to know where to turn for help. Disruptions caused by the pandemic are and will continue to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people and families in our community. Thankfully, United Way’s 2-1-1 HelpLink – a 24/7 confidential service – is here to help those in need. Se habla español.

Callers can dial 2-1-1 from any phone to connect with a 2-1-1 HelpLink Navigator who works directly with them to understand their unique individual or family needs and make referrals to a wide range of available resources from food and shelter assistance to tax preparation services. 2-1-1 HelpLink Navigators help callers develop customized plans tailored to the urgency of their needs, proximity to resources, physical abilities and more using United Way’s Community Resource Database of more than 16,000 government, health and human services programs. Since the pandemic began, 2-1-1 HelpLink has worked closely with service agencies to ensure accurate and up-to-date information is shared with all callers. 

A spike in requests for help

Last week, 2-1-1 HelpLink experienced double the call volume compared to the previous week. Since the pandemic began, the top five resources requested by 2-1-1 HelpLink callers include food and meal help, income support and assistance, housing, utility assistance, and health care.

In light of expected, ongoing increases, callers may experience unusual hold times and are asked to please be patient as 2-1-1 HelpLink Navigators work to answer their call. Callers can also use the “Call Back” feature where they enter a virtual queue, disconnect from their phone to return to other activities and await a call back from 2-1-1 HelpLink once it is their turn. United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 HelpLink is committed to answering every call to ensure those in need receive essential resources during these unprecedented times. 

Those who wish can also chat online with a 2-1-1 Navigator by visiting https://www.211oh.org/#.

Guidance for those who want to give back

United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 HelpLink serves as a further resource for those looking to help the community through the COVID-19 pandemic by providing information on organizations in need of volunteers and how to donate to the Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Response Relief Fund, a philanthropic, community-wide effort to support nonprofits serving on the frontlines of the pandemic. 

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, 2-1-1 HelpLink has also partnered with both the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and the Cleveland Department of Public Health to establish the Coronavirus Helpline where 24/7 callers can dial 1-855-711-3035 to receive general information on COVID-19 and important contact information. 

United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 HelpLink regularly serves seven counties in Ohio: Allen, Belmont, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lawrence, Medina and Ross; during the COVID-19 crisis, it has expanded its 2-1-1 Helplink support to include seven additional counties across Ohio to help as many people as possible, including Coshocton, Crawford, Darke, Erie, Huron, Van Wert and Wyandot. 

You can learn more about United Way 2-1-1 HelpLink here.