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Ready to get the 411? Although now obsolete due to the advent of new technology, the 4-1-1 information line was an early pacesetter for quick and convenient information systems.
Seemingly everyone is familiar with the 9-1-1 emergency hotline. Many also know 3-1-1 as the helpline for city and government services, and last year, the 9-8-8 suicide and crisis lifeline was introduced. Recently, based on the success and overwhelming need for these helplines, a 2-1-1 helpline launched, making it the newest three-digit dialing code in the Greater Chicago area.*
Chicago and suburban Cook County residents can now call or text 2-1-1 or visit 211metrochicago.org to be connected to a variety of resources that meet essential needs, including but not limited to:
2-1-1 is a free and easy-to-access helpline operated by United Way of Metro Chicago in partnership with the City of Chicago and Cook County. Callers can receive live support 24/7/365 in English and Spanish, and soon services will be provided in additional languages. If callers request something outside of the scope of what 2-1-1 covers, helpline staff will connect callers to the correct local resource or provider. A full list of these resources can be found on the 2-1-1 website.
Helpline staff manage, review, and continually update a comprehensive database of local providers that can respond to caller needs. And 2-1-1 staff do more than refer callers to other providers; they also offer critical intake support for services, and a compassionate, patient ear. Helpline staff respect confidentiality, making referrals after receiving the caller’s consent, and only notifying other emergency and law enforcement services if a caller poses an immediate threat to themselves or others.
The 2-1-1 helpline team stays connected with its partnering referral service agencies, and if an agency meets its client capacity or needs to make changes to its services, 2-1-1 staff will refer callers to other agencies. Service providers can use the 2-1-1 website to learn about available resources and they can contact 2-1-1 to have their agency or program added to the 2-1-1 referral database.
Outside of Chicago and Cook County, 2-1-1 systems are located in DuPage Lake, Kane, McHenry, and Will Counties. Altogether, approximately 90% of Illinois is now covered by 2-1-1 and it is anticipated that every county in our state will have this critical resource and referral system by 2024.
*2-1-1 does not replace 9-1-1 for emergencies, 9-8-8 for suicide help, or 3-1-1 for Chicago housing and shelter services. For individuals and families in suburban Cook County who are experiencing homelessness or housing challenges, contact 877-426-6515 or www.myentrypoint.org.