211 Helping People During Bitter Cold

With the bitter cold temps dominating these last few days, people in need can connect with help at United Way’s 211 Connecticut system.

The system offers online or telephone assistance for people trying to find a warm place to stay, food and needs help with energy programs.

United Way 211 Connecticut is free, confidential and offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

This week specialists have taken 182 weather-related calls and they’ve had more than 2,5000 hits on its website. 

When someone dials 211 for assistance, they're sure to get a calm, collected voice on the other end providing round the clock assistance.

"It's been a really busy week with the cold weather," 211 Senior Vice President Tanya Barrett told NBC Connecticut.

One specialist, Mary, said they've seen an increase in shelter calls this week during the bitter cold temperatures. 

The 211 center in Rocky Hill is filled with contact center specialists like Mary helping mostly with cold weather calls.

"Definitely shelter to get out of the cold. That’s what we’ve been getting a lot of, where the local warming centers are, emergency shelter placement. Sometimes we do get calls people run out of oil, things of that nature, things of that nature. Mostly people who are literally homeless outside," Mary reiterated.

Sometimes those calls can get stressful, but that’s where training kicks in.

"We get someone who is upset on the phone based on their situations, we do have to try to get them focused on what they need so we can help them the best we can," Mary said. 

After earning their four-year degrees, specialists go through four to six weeks of on-site training before they’re even allowed on the phones. They learn about various topics and how to work with callers so they get the assistance they need.

"We get calls 24-7, people are at their wit's end and they don’t know what to do next. They don’t know what exists and they don’t know what to ask for," Barrett added.

It’s a tough job that Mary says pays off in the end.

"It makes me feel good that I can get someone connected with assistance," Mary said. 

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