Need help? Free 2-1-1 service assists Huntsville’s most vulnerable

single-meta-cal June 29, 2021

When Jake McKinney first moved to Huntsville, he struggled to make ends meet.

The former New Jersey resident was dealing with health issues and in need of transportation to see a doctor. Unable to work, he found himself homeless for a period of time.

2-1-1, a 24/7 hotline from United Way for individuals and families, helped McKinney get back on his feet by connecting him with transportation through United Way’s RIDE UNITED program. The 22-year-old also used the service to secure affordable housing in Huntsville.

Now able to work from home and address his medical needs, McKinney is on the path to progress thanks to 2-1-1, which serves as the initial point of contact for a variety of health and human service programs in our community.  The connection from 2-1-1 to RIDE UNITED helped Jake take that next step.

McKinney encourages anyone in need of assistance to dial 2-1-1 as soon as possible.

“Don’t be ashamed, don’t be worried that there is no help for you because there definitely is,” he said. “I came from New Jersey and had no idea what kind of help and resources there were out here in Alabama. That one phone call gave me all the tools to survive up until now.”

Helping our most vulnerable

2-1-1, which helped more than 13,000 people in Madison County during the past year, assists community members from all walks of life. Most importantly, the service benefits our most vulnerable populations, including the elderly, people with disabilities and low-income residents.

For those facing difficult times, 2-1-1 is the first step to connecting with a call specialist trained in linking people with the local help they require. It also eliminates the time and stress involved in tracking down resources by yourself.

“Research has shown us that the average person gets on Google and tries seven different searches before they get to the right place,” said Jessica Rasche, 2-1-1 program manager at Crisis Services of North Alabama. “2-1-1 tells you where to go, when to go and what to bring when you get there.”

Don’t be ashamed, don’t be worried that there is no help for you because there definitely is.

In addition to its free call service, 2-1-1 is accessible via text message at 888-421-1266 or online chat at Residents can also use the 2-1-1 virtual database with the United Way’s guided search feature.

How to help

Cathy Miller, Community Impact Director at United Way of Madison County, said her organization contracts with Crisis Services of North Alabama to run the local 2-1-1 call center. United Way also provides essential 2-1-1 marketing to help educate the community about the service.

Those who want to give back and learn how to share this resource can join United Way’s 2-1-1 Ambassador Corp, a group of dedicated volunteers who help spread the word in areas where 2-1-1 might not be as well known. The next training will be held via Zoom on Aug. 5. Click here to register.

“It’s just one more way to keep that constant messaging out there that 2-1-1 is the place to connect if you have a need that you cannot deal with on your own,” Miller said.

For more details about 2-1-1, please visit the website.