Friday, February 11, 2011

South Sound 2-1-1: A Lifeline for Those in Need

by Nicole Milbradt, Sr. Marketing Associate & Events Manager

Evidence of the recession is everywhere. At United Way of Pierce County, nothing reveals the affects of the economic downturn more than the demand on South Sound 2-1-1.

South Sound 2-1-1 is a service of United Way of Pierce County that provides callers with referrals for non-emergency resources, like shelter, food banks and utility assistance. In 2009, over 76,000 callers from Pierce, Thurston and Lewis counties reached out to 2-1-1. In 2010, that number grew to nearly 84,000 callers. They served a record number in December including, 9,062 calls for the month and 626 calls in just one day. The increase in need was obvious.

Yet, only 36 percent of the callers who contacted the agencies they were referred to actually received help. Most were turned away because the agencies simply didn’t have the resources available to serve the number of people in need.

The need has grown while funding has decreased, leaving many nonprofits trying to do more with less. South Sound 2-1-1 experienced this for themselves in 2010. State funding limitations and staff reductions made it difficult for Information and Referral Specialists at 2-1-1 to respond to every call. Nearly 9 percent of callers were not able to get through.

However, those who did get through and did contact their referrals found the vital hope they needed. Utility assistance and rent and mortgage assistance accounted for 38.3 percent of the calls to South Sound 2-1-1. Verna, an elderly woman, living alone, was one of the many who contacted South Sound 2-1-1 seeking utility assistance. Another caller sought help after her husband was injured on the job and they found themselves unable to pay their mortgage. She was referred to a number of agencies that helped her pay the bills until her husband’s injury pay came in.

Shelter and affordable housing are also frequently requested resources. Melissa was a single-mom fleeing a domestic violence situation. Thanks to referrals from South Sound 2-1-1 and United Way’s Affordable Housing Guide, she was able to find a home for her family.

South Sound 2-1-1 also helps people with food, health issues, transportation, legal counsel, clothing and household needs and holiday and seasonal assistance.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?Volunteer as an Information and Referral Specialist at South Sound 2-1-1, answering phone calls and providing referrals

Advocate for funding from our state leaders for WIN 2-1-1 to help support the 2-1-1 system locally and state wide

Participate in this year’s Community Campaign and help United Way of Pierce County provide funding to more than 100 local programs struggling to serve those in need. This year all new and increased gifts will be matched, multiplying the difference your donation can make.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cold, warm, balmy, or freezing weather … it’s always full at area shelters.

by Linda Cameron, Sr. Marketing Associate

The line starts at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon for the 153 sleeping spots available at the Rescue Mission’s Downtown Tacoma Campus. Irrespective of the weather, all of the beds are filled every night. On average, 35 men are turned away because there is no room. Every day, in the cafeteria after the evening meal, the tables and chairs are moved out of the way and the 50 plus sleeping mats are laid out for the night. In January, 58 new clients were enrolled, up slightly over January 2010’s numbers.

Additional need does not translate into more staff says Frank Jackson, Rescue Mission’s Downtown Tacoma Campus Director. More people with the same number of staff create management difficulties. When staff was stretched to the limit, he reached out to volunteers and interns to fill those needs.

A warm place to stay overnight is just one component of services provided. Over the past four years, the Downtown Tacoma Campus has seen a 25 percent increase in single moms with young children coming to eat at the campus. No one is turned away at meal time.

When asked how the cold weather has affected their campus, Frank said there is a constant need for coats, hats, gloves and scarves to help protect against the elements.

Jan Sonntag, Adams Street Family Campus’ Capital Campaign Director, echoed the constant need for coats, hats and gloves.

“What is the bare minimum for you is not the same as someone on the street.” Homeless people live with the barest of minimum. For most, their lives are contained in a plastic bag. In December, over 11,000 pieces of clothing were distributed through the Rescue Mission’s Campuses.

Sonntag said the Rescue Mission works hard to meet the basic needs of its clients.

“We’re doing our best to stop the revolving door.”

Special Thanks to our funded partners who are serving those in need of shelter - Tacoma Rescue Mission and Catholic Community Services.