We often write about how to help, but people searching for help come across this website, too. We understand that most nonprofit websites are created for donors rather than for people who need help, so it can be hard to find out how to get the help you need.
In Austin, the best place to start is with a call to 2-1-1. Anyone can use this free service, available in almost any language, to get help for themselves or someone else. The 2-1-1 Navigation Center itself does not provide services. But the lines are staffed by people who can connect you to 30,000 nonprofit and government resources that can.
These days there are sources online, too, and a new one from United Way for Greater Austin just premiered this week. We want to tell you about them and how each of them works.
United Way for Greater Austin operates the 2-1-1 Navigation Center as part of the statewide program of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. 2-1-1 is a free, anonymous social service hotline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
No matter where you live in Texas, you can dial 2-1-1, or (877) 541-7905, and find information about resources in your local community. Whether you need help finding food or housing, child care, crisis counseling or substance abuse treatment, one number is all you need to know.
In 2018, 2-1-1- took more than 144,000 calls, with the top three reasons people called being housing cost assistance, emergency food requests, and prescription needs assistance. Each year, United Way puts out an interesting report on the kinds of services people call in for – it’s worth checking out.
The online version of 2-1-1, 211Texas.org allows you to type in what you’re looking for and your zip code to connect you with a list of agencies, their contact information, and even a map. From there, you can click on the name of an agency and get more information about the services it provides and contact information.
In its top navigation bar, 211Texas.org has a link specifically for mental health services. From there, you can choose either housing services or inpatient care services. This is because, according to the aforementioned report, mental health inquiries were the top most searched for service on 211Texas.org.
United Way for Greater Austin just launched this new resource last week. Similar in service to 2-1-1, ConnectATX.org, but this platform is a little more powerful. You can create an account on the site that opens up new tools like saving certain resources, making notes about your interactions with them, sending the resource to yourself or someone else, printing the information, and more. It’s great for folks with regular access to the internet. Plus, it’s available in a few dozen different languages.
ConnectATX.org for our region is actually built on the powerful, nationwide platform, AuntBertha.com. This platform was created by Austinite Erine Gray who believes his network can support organizations like 2-1-1 by taking away some of the burden and allowing those responders to spend more time with people who need more help.
The platform says it reaches “every Zip Code in the US with no fewer than 700 programs in a given county—we treat large cities, small towns, and rural areas equally.” But it wasn’t built by a bots scouring for the information. It was built by people who identify nonprofits and agencies, verify them, then add them to the platform. AuntBertha.com is great for folks who might be looking for help for someone else in another zip code or area.
Between these online resources and good old 2-1-1, you or someone you know is bound to find the help you need.