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211info Sees 250 Percent Increase in Calls From Oregonians

211info Sees 250 Percent Increase in Calls From Oregonians Since Start of COVID-19 Pandemic

Referral and information service fields almost 440K calls from Oregonians in need of housing, healthcare, food, wildfire assistance

PORTLAND, Ore., January 15, 2021 – As the Oregon Health Authority’s designated COVID-19 hotline for the state, 211info saw a significant increase in calls from Oregonians in need of social service support throughout 2020.

Residents from all 36 Oregon counties reached out to 211info for social service referrals and information during this time period.

The top five areas of need? Housing, health care, utility assistance, food/meal assistance, and family and community support such as childcare.

211info also serves as a central resource for residents looking for information about the novel coronavirus.

“When COVID-19 first reached Oregon in March, 211info saw an almost seven-fold increase in contacts about health care,” noted Dan Herman, 211info’s Chief Executive Officer.

Housing represents by far the greatest area of need. Contacts about housing support rose from an average of 4,700 in the months preceding May to an average of 7,900 contacts per month from May onward. The trends for utility as well as food assistance mirrored that of housing support.

Anneleah Jaxen, Statewide Emergency Manager for 211info, added that her team is also noticing an increase in callers with multiple needs: “A client may be reaching out with an immediate need — housing or rental assistance, for example — but through the call, we’ll discover they need referrals for food, childcare, and help with their utility bill as well. 211info is here to help identify those additional needs and connect them to social service providers.”

A Multnomah County resident experiencing houselessness had this to say about her experience with 211info: “It goes beyond being a friendly voice at the other end of the line. When people feel that there’s no help for them, they can develop a sort of tunnel vision. You’re there to drill holes through the rock so they can see some light ahead.”

The Oregon Legislature recently invested $1 million to help 211info extend service hours and hire regionally based staff. 

After setting up a special wildfire line at the request of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, 211info fielded more than four thousand calls related to wildfire evacuation.

The call center is now open seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for general 211 and COVID-19 information. 

About 211info: 211info is a nonprofit organization funded by state and municipal contracts, foundations, United Ways, donations and community partners in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Learn more: 211info.org.