United Way

Frequently Asked Questions

What is 2-1-1?

2-1-1 is a contact or navigation center to assist individuals, agencies and funders obtain information about critical health and human services in the community.

How can I reach 2-1-1?

2-1-1 can be reached by phone, either cell or land-based, anytime 24/7.  2-1-1 can also be reached by chatting through our website, www.211helps.org or emailing 211@stl.unitedway.org

What kind of help can I get through 2-1-1?

2-1-1 provides individuals needing assistance or agency case workers with information about and referrals to human services for every day and urgent needs. For example, 2-1-1 can offer access to the following types of services:

  • Basic human needs resource: food banks, clothing, shelters

  • Physical and mental health resources: medical information lines, crisis intervention services, support groups, counseling, drug and alcohol intervention, rehabilitation, Medicaid and Medicare, maternal health, children’s health insurance programs.

  • Employment support: financial assistance, job training, transportation assistance, education programs, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) filing assistance.

  • Support for older adults, people with disabilities: home health care, adult day care, congregate meals, Meals on Wheels, respite care, transportation, homemaker services.

  • Support for Children, Youth and Families: quality childcare, Success by 6, after school programs, Head Start, family resource centers, summer camps and recreation programs, mentoring, tutoring, protective services.

  • Volunteer/donor opportunities

  • Help in non-emergency crisis situation

2-1-1 also provides support to agencies needing to find assistance with their clients through specialized training on the database and a call queue set up specifically for agencies.  2-1-1 provides data to agencies, funders and decision makers on community needs and community resources. 

What are 2-1-1’s hours of operation?

2-1-1 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year.

What is 2-1-1’s coverage area?

2-1-1 covers 99 counties in the state of Missouri and 9 counties in Southwest Illinois.  In partnership with the Kansas City 2-1-1, the entire state of Missouri is covered by a 2-1-1 system.  The counties covered by 2-1-1 in Southwest Illinois are Calhoun, Clinton, Greene, Jersey, Madison, Macoupin, Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair.

Can I use my cell phone to call 2-1-1?

Yes - most major cell phone carriers have set 2-1-1 as a dialing code for their cell phones.  We are currently working with the remaining carriers to provide access to all cell phones.  If your cell phone does not have the 2-1-1 dialing code, you can call 1-800-427-4626 to reach 2-1-1.

I get a fast busy signal when I try 2-1-1 from work. What’s wrong?

Many offices do not allow what are called N-1-1 calls from their phones. Since 2-1-1 is a free number to call, ask your administrators if they will allow 2-1-1 in your phone system. Otherwise, please call 1-800-427-4626 or visit us online at www.211helps.org.

Why does Missouri and Southwest Illinois need a 2-1-1 program?

A 2-1-1 program enables residents to have better access to needed health and human services.  Many people aren’t sure who to call for assistance when they have a problem.  With one call to 2-1-1, a person can be assured they are being referred to the correct agency or organization in their area to deal with their specific problem or concern.

What happens when a person calls 2-1-1?

A trained specialist will determine the area from which the person is calling and what services are needed, and then provide contact and program information for all available services in the person’s community.

Is 2-1-1 an emergency hotline?

No, residents should continue to call local emergency numbers for situations such as medical emergencies, fires and police assistance.  2-1-1 can potentially relieve the 9-1-1 system from dealing with non-emergency situations, which sometimes slow down response times in dealing with real emergencies.  2-1-1 does not replace 9-1-1 or other community emergency access numbers. 

Do 2-1-1 operators connect people directly to 9-1-1 if necessary and does 9-1-1 do the same thing?

2-1-1 can connect people to 9-1-1 if needed, but 9-1-1 is likely to redirect callers to dial 2-1-1 if appropriate. It’s important to remember to call 9-1-1 in emergency situations, not 2-1-1.

How is the community resource information in the 2-1-1 database kept up to date?

2-1-1 staff at the four data hubs around the state are responsible for continually updating information about various community services, to ensure access telephone numbers, contact names, lists of services offered and other relevant information is current. The hubs are located in Cape Girardeau, Jefferson City, St. Louis and Springfield, Missouri.

How often is the 2-1-1 database updated?

The database must be updated according to AIRS' Standards, which requires that each resource be verified every year.

Does a health or human services organization have to be a United Way-funded agency in order to be listed in the 2-1-1 service directory?

No, information has been gathered about non-profit, government and faith-based health and human services organizations in each Missouri and Southwest Illinois community, and made available to residents through 2-1-1.

How many people does Missouri Southwest Illinois 2-1-1 serve? 

In 2014, 2-1-1 Missouri/Southwest Illinois took 165,000+ calls.

Who trains the call specialists and how are they trained? 

Call specialists are trained using a curriculum developed by AIRS, the Alliance of Information & Referral Systems, which leads to professional certification.  This curriculum is supplemented by training specific to Missouri resources.

How is 2-1-1 funded?  Does it receive state funding? 

At this time there is no State funding for 2-1-1.  2-1-1 is funded by the United Way of Greater St. Louis with some funding from other United Ways in the state of Missouri.

Is my local United Way involved with 2-1-1?

2-1-1 is a product of United Way.  We are in close contact with the United Ways across the state encouraging them to utilize 2-1-1 in their campaigns and to the benefit of their clients.  Several United Ways directly support 2-1-1 with financial funding or sharing office space and supplies in their local United Way.

Can calls be transferred from one 2-1-1 service to another (since there are 20 other statewide 2-1-1 services)? 

Generally, no. Each local telephone exchange is linked to a particular 2-1-1 call center.  However, each 2-1-1 also has a 10-digit or 800 telephone number; if someone calls seeking resources in an area outside of the local 2-1-1, the caller is provided with the telephone number of the closest 2-1-1 or information and referral service to the area in which they seek services.  For example, if someone calls 2-1-1 Missouri seeking resources in San Diego, CA, they will be provided with the regular number for the 2-1-1 service in San Diego.

Does 2-1-1 replace hotlines established for particular types of services or needs?

2-1-1 is designed to link callers with the best source of information and will work in partnership with organizations with specialized expertise or information. For example, a caller seeking child care resources might be linked to the Child Care Resource & Referral (CCRR) agency serving their county.