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211 hotline staff encourage people to use the free resource

United Way's 211 service usually sees between 500-700 calls every day, which range in topics from advice about taxes to finding shelter in cold weather.

MINNEAPOLIS — As temperatures continue to drop, getting access to a warm place to stay, for people who are unsheltered, can be lifesaving. That's one of the many services United Way's 211 network helps provide.

"It used to be called First Call For Help, so a lot of people might recognize it by that name,' said Julie Ogunleye, the director of what's now known as 211 for Greater Twin Cities United Way.

Ogunleye explained each season brings new needs for her team.

"Right now, we get a lot of tax questions, people looking for tax assistance, prep."

This time of year also includes a lot of calls for cold weather.

"We do see people reaching out for warming centers, different shelter; people who maybe can get by other times of the year being outside, but this time of year, definitely we want to make sure people have a warm safe place to stay," Ogunleye said. 

The 211 team includes about 20 people. They work from home and most live locally in the Twin Cities. 

"We take calls from the community 24/7/365," Ogunleye said. "It takes a lot to be there for people over and over every day... To put that attention and empathy into the call they're taking. I'm proud of our team for being a great assist to our community."

Ogunleye said 211 usually sees between 500-700 calls every day.

In addition to calling 211, people can also text or go online for help.

"You can go to our website at 211unitedway.org or you can text your zip code to 898211 and we can text with you," Ogunleye said. "Everything from a shelter to rent assistance to childcare, utilities, mental health resources — that whole spectrum of social services. We help connect people and learn about what services might be available."

211 has Hmong, Spanish and English speakers on staff, as well as access to an interpreter in other languages.

If being a resource to others over the phone sounds like something you might be interested in, 211 is hiring community resource specialists

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