LDS Emergency Preparedness

Be Prepared, Not Scared!

Riverside County-211 Help

IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY, 911 is the number to call. But there’s another help line — 211 — for people who find themselves in dire need of such things as food, cash or psychological intervention.

Like their 911 counterparts, 211 operators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They provide callers with referrals from a database of more than 2,800 health and human service agencies, says Craig Redelsperger, director of Riverside County’s 211 program. The organization can help meet a range of needs from housing assistance to food stamps to medical care.

The program was implemented in 2005 through Community Connect, which provides area residents with a variety of services including rental assistance, housing, transportation, professional and self-development, and counseling.

“In the last two years, we’ve seen a 20 percent increase in our call volume,” Redelsperger said. “We are now averaging over 8,000 calls a month, which is not surprising considering the economic conditions.”

Often, callers aren’t sure where to get the information or referrals they need and have already made calls to various places without receiving help. But when they call 211, trained operators listen to the caller’s needs and match them to agencies that can help them immediately.

Carlos Garbutt, a full-time 211 operator since 2008, finds his work rewarding. “We touch a lot of lives and are humbled to have that privilege,” Garbutt said. “Along with meeting our callers’ needs, we also want to give them hope and empower them to get back on track.”

Bobbie Neff, Community Connect CEO, says 211 receives many calls from people who have lost their jobs and need help paying their rent and utility bills. Other callers may have a job but don’t make enough money to pay for emergency car repairs or medical bills, she adds. A great number of senior citizens phone in.

“We recently received a call from a 75-year-old man living in a mobile home park who did not have money to get his propane tank refilled,” Neff said. “Another elderly lady called who was alone and couldn’t read the prescription label on her new medicine. There’s a great need for reading glasses.”

211 operators are committed to helping people Neff calls the “newly needy” — those who have never needed help in the past but who now face unemployment or homelessness.

“If someone has been in the system for a while, they know about this program,” Neff said. “So we need to get the word out to those who are not familiar with it. That’s a big part of our mission right now.”

Community Connect, Riverside

951-686-4402

http://www.connectriverside.org

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