Lake County celebrates measurable results of United Way 211 helpline

Free helpline available 24 hours a day in multiple languages

GURNEE – United Way of Lake County recently marked the second anniversary of 211 services for Lake County with a 90-minute virtual event targeted to key stakeholders, partners and community leaders.

The event highlighted 211 measurable Year 2 results and impact, including how the system has transformed the way individuals and families from across Lake County are connecting to essential health and human services to improve and save lives.

The free, confidential, multilingual, 24-hour information and referral helpline was launched Sept. 24, 2019, by United Way of Lake County in collaboration with the county and many community partners.

Lake County is the largest county in Illinois to have implemented 211.

“Now there is an organized, efficient, professional and multilayered service that has made access to essential health and human services readily available by simply dialing three numbers: 211,” said Marc Jones, Waukegan Township supervisor, who served as host and moderator for the event.

A panel of local government and human services experts discussed how 211 more efficiently connects people in need to a wide range of available resources, including Kelly Brown, community impact officer at Interface Children & Family Services who manages the 211 Contact Center; Zion Mayor Billy McKinney; Brenda O’Connell, community development director for Lake County government; Mary Lockhart White, executive director/CEO for Community Action Partnership of Lake County; and Anna Yankelev, strategic planning and partnerships manager for the Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center.

211 has made 50,350 connections, including 10,780 calls and two-way texts to the 211 Contact Center and 39,570 visits to the 211LakeCounty.org website, in Year 2.

During Year 2, the average monthly number of calls and texts to 211 grew to more than 900 a month with November through January trending even higher because of 211 involvement with rental assistance screenings. The number of calls to 211 in Year 2 have far outpaced the number of calls in its first year of operation, with 27% of calls and texts taking place outside of normal business hours.

Since November 2020, 62% of the calls and texts have been related to COVID-19.

211 reporting shows that calls and texts have been received from every ZIP code in Lake County. The Waukegan community represents a significant portion of the 211 contacts at 31% of overall contact volume. Zion is at 9% and Round Lake is at 8.1%.

The top needs presented have been housing and shelter, utilities, food, health care, mental health and addictions and employment and income support. Housing and shelter needs are by far the top category with rent payment assistance consistently ranked as the top housing need each and every month since 211 launched. Lake County government responded by increasing funding for rent assistance through the COVID Housing Relief Program and more recently the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program. 211 has centralized and streamlined the rental assistance screening process to make it easier for individuals and families facing financial hardship to access resources.

“211 has truly been a lifeline for tens of thousands of people across the county who have found themselves in crisis, including many who never thought they might need help,” said Kristi Long, president and CEO of United Way of Lake County. “Last month, we reached a major milestone of 100,000 contacts to 211, which means 100,000 connections to critical services and help since we launched just two years ago. The community has clearly embraced 211 as Lake County’s one-stop shop for help, and awareness continues to grow.”

To access 211, simply call 211 or text your ZIP code to 898211. Resource navigators at the 211 Contact Center, who are experienced, trained specialists, will guide people to the help they deserve in their moments of need. The comprehensive 211 service is multilingual with English and Spanish-speaking staff, as well as interpretations to more than 150 languages.

To learn more about United Way of Lake County’s 211, visit 211LakeCounty.org.