2-1-1 In the News
December 7, 2003
'211' will be link to 'basic needs'
By Yolanda Jones
Dialing 211 in Memphis now will get you a dating service line.
But come next fall, the three-digit number will help Shelby County callers find everything from emergency housing to food banks.
- The Memphis/Shelby County Library Information Center (LINC), which already handles 12,000 calls a year, will run the new 211 social service line, which will work like 411 and 911.
- The 211 system is expected to start in October 2004, and will include Tipton and Fayette counties.
"We are estimating we will go from 12,000 calls a year through LINC to 40,000 calls a year because 211 is such an easy number to remember," said Ron Reid, a senior LINC manager.
Atlanta created the country's first 211 line in 1997. There are now 82 active 211 systems in 23 states.
Knoxville, Chattanooga and Kingsport already have started their systems with great success, officials said.
In 2000, Knoxville was the first in the state to start its 211 system, which now fields 20,000 calls a year, said Jane Schlee, executive director of 211 East Tennessee Information and Referral.
"The folks that call are mostly working poor and middle-class people who need help with basic needs from food to housing," Schlee said. "These are working people who have never been in the system, but fell on hard times."
Reid said LINC expects to win Tennessee Regulatory Authority approval for its 211 line as early as January.
Then the current 211 line's owner will have six months to get another number.
He said it will cost about $26,000 to get new computer software and equipment to start the 211 system.
But since LINC's 24-member staff already handles information and referrals through the LINC line, they will also handle the additional social service calls, Reid said.
They'll start with Shelby, Tipton and Fayette counties, Reid said, and hope to expand it to DeSoto, Tunica, Crittenden and Tate counties.