2-1-1 In the News
Commercial-Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)
Callers linked to one-stop community-service program
By Carla Underwood
About 50 agencies participated in a community fair Wednesday to help spread the word about a one-stop program that connects community services with those who need them, just when the community seems to need them more.
At the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, local, regional and national organizations showcased their services during National 211 Day. The service, which has been run by a specialized staff of the Public Library and Information Center since 2005, can be accessed by dialing 211 from any land line or mobile phone.
That need for community services, said LINC/211 senior manager Ron Reid, has grown under the weight of the current economic downturn. Reid said his staff has seen a steady increase in calls since October, with the greatest increases from callers facing economic stresses.
In Shelby County alone, 32,990 people in the labor force were out of work in December, for a county jobless rate of 7.5 percent, up from 6.9 in November and 5.4 in December 2007.
"To put it in perspective, last year, we averaged 3,500 calls a month. In January alone of this year, we had more than 5,500 calls," Reid said. "I can remember when we started and said that if we ever hit 40,000 calls (per year), then we'd be doing great. Last year, we had over 45,000 calls ... way over the top."
Although the library has had an information and referral service since 1975, the adoption of the one-call-connects-all program in 2005 helped streamline an already frustrating process.
"One of the reasons that 211 exists is because people usually don't know where to start," said Audrey May, public services supervisor for LINC/211. "Studies have shown that it takes on average seven or eight calls (to connect with appropriate resources). Our job is to take care of it in one call."
The LINC/211 call team fields calls seven days a week, ranging from requests for help with impending utility cut-offs or foreclosures to connecting parents with affordable child care and family counseling. Where there is a need -- large or small -- the staff helps fill it.
According to May, LINC is the only public library system in the country to provide the 211 service on a full-scale basis.
The program is a national initiative available to about 80 percent of the country's population. All 95 Tennessee counties are served through 10 separate 211 programs.
Through a database that is consistently monitored and modified, the Memphis LINC services callers in Shelby, Tipton, Fayette, Lake, Obion and Lauderdale counties. Mississippi and Arkansas each have a single 211 service center.
-- Carla Underwood: 529-2594
LINC/211 Quick Facts
The Library and Information Center at the Memphis Public Library maintains a comprehensive database of human services organizations, government agencies and volunteer groups, which can now be accessed by dialing 211.
You can also reach LINC by calling toll-free (866) 735-7211.
The most frequent requests for help are utilities, food, protective services, legal assistance, child care, social support, housing and mental health.
Services are accessible to the hearing-impaired by calling (TTY) 415-2701.
On the Web: www.memphislibrary.org/linc/211.htm.