February 11, 2015 marked Vermont 2-1-1’s 10th Anniversary! The entire 2-1-1 staff would like to express its sincere appreciation for the United Ways of Vermont’s continued commitment to the Vermont 2-1-1program. Over the past ten years, our delivery of professional information and referral services to Vermonters has grown in strength, expanded in scope, and increased in reputation, in large part due to the steadfast support of each of Vermont’s local United Way directors.
Call volume increases in February! Over 9,000 requests for assistance came into our Vermont 2-1-1 call center during the first two months of 2015 and 4,644 of those calls were made in February. As anticipated by many Community Action Agencies, an increased need for utilities payment assistance became the reality during this year’s frigid winter months. In response to the very clear crisis situation for numerous Vermont families, the Fuel Office recently released funds for a second round of crisis fuel. Households who received seasonal fuel assistance (LIHEAP) and a first round of crisis fuel assistance may now be eligible for a second round of crisis fuel assistance. Vermont 2-1-1 is informing callers and encouraging households to contact their local Community Action Agency to apply for this much needed assistance.
A slight decrease in the number of housing/shelter referrals is evidence of improved systems with the State of Vermont’s Emergency Housing Program. This year, due to the number of days during which temperatures often remained below 20 degrees, housing vouchers for shelter from the cold were granted for up to four nights at a time. This new approach of approving multiple nights of housing did help to keep the daily call volume more manageable for housing specialists responding to these emergency calls. However, any decrease in the daily number of calls for emergency housing due to the multiple nights approach should NOT be interpreted as a reduction in need. The very obvious, and most desperate, need for an increase in safe, permanent housing for Vermonters has never been more evident than during this winter’s numerous cold spells. Crucial to Vermont’s ability to house so much of its most vulnerable population during this dangerous winter season is the longstanding commitment of local, volunteer-run emergency warming shelters throughout the state. These shelters have provided safe havens for our homeless; offering warm, safe spaces to sleep and places to connect with others who can assist them with gaining accesses to appropriate resources. The “filled-to-capacity” reliance upon these shelters most certainly speaks to the kindness and dignity with which occupants are treated, but it also speaks to the growing need for permanent housing solutions
Each year more and more Vermonters are calling Vermont 2-1-1 to find out where they can receive free income tax preparation services. In February, referrals to Tax Organizations and Services showed the largest increase in call numbers over January than any other sub-category. All Vermonters can call 2-1-1 for accurate information about local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and MyFreeTaxes sites closest to them. Individuals who live or work in Windham, Southern Windsor and Chittenden Counties, have been able to dial 2-1-1 to get transferred directly to a tax scheduler for appointments. Call Specialists also provide information about income eligibility guidelines to callers requesting this free service.
View Vermont 2-1-1’s monthly call volume report here.