A telephone operator listens intently on a headset.

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211 Helpline Rises to Meet Coronavirus Challenge

Call volume more than doubles during crisis

In times of crisis, information is critical. But while the media, both traditional social, are in a 24-hour news cycle that is providing an endless stream of information, there is often little reliable information on everyday critical needs and resources in our own neighborhoods. 

Enter 211 Miami.

Operated by the Jewish Community Services of South Florida and funded by The Children’s Trust, 211 is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year to provide resources, direction, guidance, and one-on-one support when needed during critical times. And though it is always a reliable resource, the helpline has become especially critical with the societal upheaval that has taken place during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We have more than doubled our normal call volume with calls answered,” said Director Richard Shutes, adding that his staff of 32 full-timers and part-timers are working overtime to take care of the additional calls for assistance. 

It should come as no surprise that the majority of calls to 211 during the pandemic relate directly to uncertainties faced mostly by low-income households. “The top requests associated with (the calls) have to do with food, health care, housing, income support and mental health services,” Shutes said. 

The director went on to tell the story of a couple that called 211 looking for guidance on where to get food at the onset of the pandemic. Although they were informed that supermarkets would remain open, the operator gave the couple a list of drive thru food giveaways in the Miami area “The couple was extremely grateful as they thought it would be safer to go and get food through a drive thru rather than actually walking into a grocery store.” 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

#Repost @211miami ❤️Meaningful Monday ❤️ I contacted 211 to find assistance for my son, with a prep class for the ACT. My son needs to pass the test in order to receive his diploma. He has a learning disability and I have physical disability. I feel very helpless at times when I can’t do as much for my son. The counselor provided me with Miami Dade College since they have ACT prep classes. The counselor also informed me that Miami Dade College has services that accommodate students with disabilities. The 211 specialist was very kind, she listened to me, like actually LISTENED, and helped point me in the right direction to help my son. I am really grateful for the resources that I was provided with and feel hopeful that they will be able to help my son succeed with his education. #211miami #crisishotlinedial211 #miamidadecounty #informationandreferral #dial211forhelp #24hourhelp#MotivationMonday

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As well as constantly updating their resource directory, the staff at 211 is also trained at handling sensitive calls involving mental health situations, including dealing with suicidal persons. “211 Miami also provides crisis counseling to those in emotional distress or [those] that are struggling with suicidal ideation,” said 211 supervisor Tiffany Hernandez. “We have over 4,000 programs in our database for Miami-Dade and Monroe [counties].” 

211 Miami is the only 24/7 helpline in Miami-Dade County for crisis counseling and information and referral. The helpline connects clients to free tax preparation sites, food pantries, summer camps, mental health and substance abuse agencies, veteran programs, community clinics, senior programs, and other resources.

To learn more about 211 visit https://jcsfl.org/services/helpline/ or simply call 211.