Calls to the Bartholomew County 211 information hotline increased by 10 percent in 2013, with more people seeking help to find resources to obtain food, clothing and money.
While increases are being seen, the 211 office believes call volume would go up even more with heightened awareness of the program.
211 is a hotline area residents can call to receive information about community services. It is sponsored through the United Way of Bartholomew County, where phones are answered at 1531 13th St.
“We really felt like people weren’t calling us for whatever reason. A lot of people just don’t know about us,” said Erika Miller, community resource coordinator for the United Way of Bartholomew County.
Many people who do call are in crisis situations.
“We have people that call in, and it’s 20 degrees outside; they’re homeless, and they don’t have a place to go. We have people that call in and are suicidal, and they’re ready to just give up,” Miller said. ”We want to give the person the information that they need.”
In 2013, the south-central region — which is made up of Brown, Bartholomew, Decatur, Lawrence, Jackson, Jennings, Orange, Washington and Scott counties — received 9,995 requests for services, Miller said.
Those requests consisted of various needs such as household goods, health services, housing and shelter, food, income support and assistance, legal services and clothing.
Lisa Shafran, president of Turning Point, said it’s difficult to know how many people were directed by 211 to the agency’s services — but there was an increase of 100 people using Turning Point’s crisis hotline from 470 in 2012 to 570 in 2013.
Turning Point offers intervention and prevention services, shelter for victims, nonresidential services for people who do not require shelter but do require case-management services and primary prevention training in schools and in businesses.
“The best thing that we can take away from that is that we have actively been raising awareness of our services,” she said.
Turning Point’s outreach services went from reaching 121 individuals in January to 157 in February, Shafran said.
“They are not just calling the helpline. We are seeing an increase in a number of people we are actually serving,” she said.
The 211 service also connects residents with food pantries, transit systems, homeless shelters and job centers.
Miller said she has more than 200 agencies in her computer database, which helps her put clients in touch with agencies at any given time, including state offices.
One of its top goals for 2014 is to do more outreach to let people know that 211 exists.
Last year, 47 outreach efforts, where 211 participated in community events and informed the public about their services, were made in Bartholomew County, and 184 were made in the south-central region.
Miller said the phone service used to be offered by Thrive Alliance but became a service offered by the United Way about two years ago.
That change came with a big push to make the public more aware of the service, she said.
“We are a great, one-stop connection to resources,” she said. “Sometimes people just need someone to talk to.”