Michell Spoden — In my previous post in the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs, I asked Jay S. Levy, author of the books Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways: From Words to Housing and Homeless Outreach & Housing First: Lessons Learned, about who qualifies for help as homeless. I continue my discussion with jay as follows:
Michell: Jay, are you aware of the First Call for Help 211 and do you think they should make it a nationwide number?
Jay Levy: I was unaware of the plan to make First Call for Help 211 a national number, but I have often recommended this important 24/7 resource. I am envisioning a national switchboard that connects people to local help centers. If that’s the basic plan, then it sounds like a positive move for helping people to access needed services and resources. I love the First Call for Help 211 system. The idea is to make resource information readily available to anyone in need. All they have to do is dial 211 and they get connected to a helper who has information on various local/statewide resources and services.
Anything that promotes getting useful information out to people is a good thing. Currently, I manage a homeless outreach program and one of the important tasks of outreach workers is to provide the linkage to needed resources and services. Many of the local towns and cities have developed resource pamphlets or wallet-sized cards that are made available to the homeless via outreach workers, meal programs, and local businesses. We have also developed an online directory of services that list the wide array of services and resources ranging from emergency shelter, food, and healthcare to benefits, housing, and fuel assistance. Sharing this kind of information can and should be part of a community response to the issues of poverty and homelessness. In many respects, this has also been the role of Community Action organizations that receive some of their funds via HHS. They are often connected with many of the resources and services already mentioned, as well as legal counsel and advocacy services. Community Action Agencies were an essential part of the war on poverty during the 1960s and many of them are still active today. Here’s a link to the National Community Action Partnership that is a network of over 1000 Community action agencies across the USA: http://www.communityactionpartnership.com/.
Michell: Thank you Jay; this is great information. I did want to mention though that 211 does not have all resources and that if a person does not find what they are looking for, they should also check other resources if possible. I know in Cleveland one resource that is here that is handed out at the welfare department and most libraries are called “The Street Card”. I also did a bit of research at our local library to find a booklet that used to be put out by the county which was a resource guide that you could not take out of the library but which gave details about each organization and its mission along with specific details about who qualified and more. I did not find this resource in any of the libraries and one told me that maybe it was going to possibly be put online instead but they never got back to me with the details.
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More on this topic is coming up on GHN. To read more about Jay Levy and his work, please visit his website http://www.jayslevy.com/.