SOUTH BEND – For a lot of people in our community, 3 simple numbers are a lifeline when they need help finding out where to go for food, affordable housing, legal advice, or even help with their taxes.
You may have heard of 211, but most people don't realize just how much some of their neighbors rely on it.
WSBT spent some time at the 211 call center in South Bend, where on certain days, phones are ringing every minute.
When you find yourself in desperate circumstances, don’t know where to go or who you can talk to for some guidance, give John Savinski a call. Savinski’s official title is information and referral specialist, but really, he’s a guy who just knows how to track down important names and numbers, and he knows them all.
That’s the whole point of the 211 service run by United Way of St. Joseph County. They’re kind of like the Google of social services. You can call them and they point you in the right direction.
“Try to look up sometime the number for food stamps; it’s some government agency that nobody, it's called the division of family resources and yeah and where do you go,” asked Savinski.
Among the callers was Beth Berger, who contacted 211 on behalf of her son and his family who just arrived in town. They moved from Alaska and needed furniture and weren’t sure what services were available in Bremen where they’ve been staying.
“I know that there’s rentals that they might be able to afford, but I don’t know if they have waiting lists or not,” Savinski said.
Savinski tells Berger to have her son call back, but he never does.
Bill Hand ended up not needed any assistance. He found a job in Bremen and a place to rent.
“We were real fortunate,” said Hand. “I’m thankful for that.”
He still considers 211 a valuable service.
“It wasn't critical at the moment, but it could've been if we weren't as lucky to be able to get a job right away and move into this nice house and have those things, I would've really relied heavily on their services,” Hand reflected.
Back at 211 headquarters, the phones keep ringing.
“When it gets cold, you’ll get help with gas bill calls,” Savinski said.
Savinski moves on to the next caller, another question he’ll try to answer.