Working for United Way, we hear stories of people seeking help all the time. What’s been different over the past year is that the calls are coming from people who’ve been living the “American Dream” and have worked and played by the rules their whole lives. Last month, we had a record number of calls for help – 17,605. That surpassed the months following the 2004 hurricanes. Just astonishing!
More than 60% of the calls are for utility and housing assistance – basic needs. I feel so blessed to have my job and can’t even imagine being unemployed as jobless benefits are now running out and many Americans are trying to figure out what to do about health insurance. Too many people on a daily basis have to make the tough decision as to whether to keep the electricity on in their homes or pay for necessary medication.
While it’s not a silver bullet, United Way 2-1-1 is a great place to start for people facing these questions. United Way 2-1-1 is a free, 24-hour, multi-lingual helpline and suicide hotline. Highly trained call specialists can link people to local programs that can help – with rent, childcare, food, medical and mental health referrals and more.
United Way has also established a Basic Needs Fund where 100% of every dollar donated goes directly to tri-county residents struggling to survive. Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductable gift can visit http://www.hfuw.org and click on the “Donate” button, or they can call 407-835-0900 for additional information.
Orlando Sentinel Columnist Scott Maxwell summed it up the best in today’s newspaper. He shares one story of a local couple that showed the power of 2-1-1 at work. Click here to read his article.