In a nondescript building in Huntsville, you’ll find a labyrinth of hallways that lead you to a sign that simply says ‘Helpline’.
We won’t tell you where it is or who you’ll find working the phones through the doorway; the operation values privacy.
We will tell you that the sign is accurate.
Help is on the line.
This is the 211 call center. They help provide information and contact connections for people with questions.
When the government shut down, the phone lines lit up.
211 Program Manager Jessica Rasche notes, “We’ve had an increase in calls regarding people’s concerns.”
In the absence of functioning government, people quickly elected for rumors to represent truth.
So the phones started to ring.
Rashe says, “There’s been a lot of rumors going around and folks want to know what’s what. What’s true and what’s not true.”
But people aren’t just calling to trouble 211 about political this-and-that. Some have their livelihoods on the line.
Rasche adds, “Some of the rumors we’re hearing are that food stamps may just end. People may need to go and use all of their food stamps in a big hurry, and they may just get shut off.”
All indications right now are that it’s not true, by the way, and 211 tells that to anyone who calls. They want to prevent rash decisions
As Rashe explains, “Rumors can spread like wildfire. When people are confused, they can become panicked.”
Rasche says 211 will point you toward a wide array of resources you need, “If you need the telephone numbers for Social Security or you’re concerned that your disability check or your widow’s benefits or those sort of things, you want to know the status, we can give you the information about those places so that you can contact them.”
If you’re deciding whether you can get the info you need from 211, there’s a simple test you can run.
Rasche explains they can handle “any need you can think of that is a need that you wouldn’t call 911 for.”
Especially when there’s so many questions about what government services are disrupted or not disrupted and when those services might change, there’s plenty of eligible queries for the hotline.