2-1-1 Goes Silent In Five Counties

Sep 30, 2013

After a multi-year push to establish a telephone hotline for people in poverty there's no money to sustain the effort. Starting Monday, United Way of Northwest Michigan is letting its contract lapse for the 2-1-1 helpline serving the five-county Grand Traverse Region.

The phone service is in place in many parts of the U.S., designed to help people find services such as food and housing assistance.

United Way Executive Director Renae McCauley says the service cost her organization nearly $50,000 dollars a year, plus and $3.20 charge for every call that came in.

"We really support the program and believe in the concept of 2-1-1," she says. "Our greatest concerns at this point are sustainability."

The service was launched with a toll-free number in 2011. This year it quietly became 2-1-1. The move that was not advertised. Even so, the service averaged 50-to-60 calls for help each month. Were numbers to rise with advertising, costs could explode.

McCauley says sustaining the program would likely require ongoing financial commitments from multiple organizations.