For residents located in Lucas, Wood, Ottawa and Erie Counties, the United Way of Greater Toledo offers a special hotline that can give those in need of emergency help information to get assistance.
Residents in the covered counties can simply dial 2-1-1 in order to get information on agencies who can help with “basic human services” including food, clothing, shelter, rental assistance and utility assistance. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to Kelli Kreps, media coordinator with the United Way of Greater Toledo, the number of calls to the 2-1-1 system have increased.
“Unfortunately, the need has increased in record numbers this year,“ Kreps said. “Some are people who have never had to ask for help before and the increase may also reflect more awareness in the 2-1-1 system. This year, the numbers are quite a bit ahead of last year.”
Maricela Alcala, technology resource manager with United Way, said the United Way 2-1-1 system has received 49,393 calls from January through Nov. 11, 2008. The agency fielded 46,359 during the same time period in 2007.
“The highest call volume is for utility assistance,” Alcala said. “Then rent assistance, mortgage payment assistance, foreclosure assistance, and then calls for information on food pantries. We also receive a lot of calls for clothing, homeless shelters, diapers, medical care, etc.”
“For years, the top need was food,” Kreps said. “That has recently shifted to utilities. The call volume has also has increased from the suburban ZIP codes.”
Besides utility, rent, mortgage and food assistance, one call to 2-1-1 can also give those in need information on physical and mental health resources, employment support services, support for seniors and persons with disabilities, and programs for children, youth, families including childcare, after school programs, Head Start, family resource centers, recreation programs, mentoring, tutoring, and protective services.
The United Way also offers a guide entitled “2008 Help for Hard Times” as well as 2-1-1 information online at www.unitedwaytoledo.org. The guide provides the information available through 2-1-1 in print version. Agency names and phone numbers are included in the guide.
The Salvation Army also helps with utility, food and other emergency assistance.
According to Doristein Oliver, a program director with the Salvation Army of Northwest Ohio, calls for help have increased dramatically.
“The volume of calls has increased by huge amounts,” Oliver said. ‘The number of calls is way over last year because of the economy. Many people have lost their job and there has been a huge increase in the numbers of people applying for Christmas help.”
Marla Conkin, director of program development, said the Salvation Army in Toledo helped 2,200 families last year with Christmas baskets.
“We are expecting to be way over that number this year,” Conkin said. “We have just started with the kettles this weekend. We anticipate that donations will be down because we have lost stores where we used to ring the bells. We will be close to $100,000 behind last year because of that.”
The Salvation Army is receiving an increase in the number of calls seeking emergency help with utility bills.
“About 40 percent of the people we are seeing are new to the system,” Conkin said. “Job loss is a big one. Many people say the loss of a job is what brought them to us.“
For those who have received a disconnection notice from their utility, the Salvation Army may be able to help. Applications for help are by appointment only.
For more information, call your local Salvation Army unit. In Lucas County, call (419) 241-1138; In Wood County, call (419) 352-5918 and in Ottawa County, call (419) 862-3589 (Elmore Service Unit) or (419) 732-2769 (Port Clinton Service Center).