United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 HelpLink Marks 16 years of Community Service

More than 160,000 people use free, confidential 24/7 helpline each year

CLEVELAND—Tomorrow, on national 211 Day, United Way of Greater Cleveland celebrates 2-1-1 HelpLink’s 16-year history of serving the Cleveland community, helping more than 160,000 people in 2019 and averaging more than 400 calls per day.

United Way’s 2-1-1 HelpLink successfully connects callers with resources, including housing support, utility assistance and access to food more than 90 percent of the time.

“2-1-1 HelpLink is the only resource of its kind in Greater Cleveland and an essential part of United Way of Greater Cleveland’s commitment to connect those within our community with the services and agencies they need,” said Augie Napoli, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland.

“Through 2-1-1 HelpLink, we simplify the complex health and human services system for any Clevelander unsure of where to find help,” Napoli continued. “Those who need assistance are just three numbers away from the resources they need with 2-1-1 HelpLink professionals available 24/7.”

When a person in need of assistance dials 2-1-1, she or he is connected with a trained 2-1-1 HelpLink specialist who asks a series of questions about the caller’s personal story. In one of every three calls, specialists identify multiple needs.

The specialist develops a customized plan tailored to the caller’s urgency, proximity to resources, physical abilities and more using United Way’s Community Resource Database of more than 16,000 government, health and human services programs.

Once the caller understands how to access these resources, the call ends, yet the 2-1-1 HelpLink experience continues. The specialist follows up with the caller to ensure success and verify the information provided was accurate—a logistical feat that 2-1-1 HelpLink specialists accomplish with more than 100,000 unique data checks and entries to the Community Resource Database each year.

The top 5 needs 2-1-1 HelpLink responds to in Cuyahoga County:

  1. Housing services like rent payment assistance and shelters
  2. Utility Assistance like help with electric, gas and water bill payment
  3. Food or Meal Assistance at food pantries and soup kitchens
  4. Legal, Consumer and Public Safety Needs like help with birth certificate fees
  5. Information Services such as the gambling addiction line, which 2-1-1 HelpLink operates for the State of Ohio. Beginning this month, the 2-1-1 HelpLink team will also handle calls for the Cleveland Department of Public Health.

The future of 2-1-1 HelpLink

Through the Accountable Health Communities* (AHC) project, funded by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, trained 2-1-1 Navigators are active at Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center to support patients in connecting with 2-1-1 resources.

The AHC model test works to improve clinical community linkages to support patients’ health-related social needs, including housing services and access to food. The AHC project began in 2018 and is funded through 2021.

United Way of Greater Cleveland is developing additional partnerships to create more 2-1-1 HelpLink programs within the community. One such program begins with the Cleveland Department of Public Health later this month.

“Meeting people where they are is a crucial step in serving our community,” said Franco Formacelli, Director of 2-1-1 HelpLink at United Way of Greater Cleveland. “2-1-1 HelpLink is available at the tap of a finger and by increasing our physical presence within the community in innovative ways, including at local hospitals and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, we can help more people than ever before access the resources they need. That’s what United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 HelpLink is all about – helping people.”

A trusted expert across Ohio

United Way of Greater Cleveland currently operates 2-1-1 HelpLink services for counties across the state, including Allen, Belmont, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lawrence, Lorain, Medina, Summit and Ross, which joins tomorrow.

For each county, United Way of Greater Cleveland’s data specialists coordinate with local area agencies to ensure that information within the 2-1-1 HelpLink database is accurate.

United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2-1-1 HelpLink became an official part of the national 2-1-1 network in 2004.

To listen to a conversation between a person in need and a 2-1-1 HelpLink specialist, visit: https://www.211oh.org/how-we-help/process.

For more information on the calls that 2-1-1 HelpLink answers each month, visit: https://www.211oh.org/reports.

How to access 2-1-1 HelpLink

Those in need can dial 2-1-1 to reach a specialist 24/7 or chat online Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at https://www.211oh.org/#. All conversations are free and confidential.

* Accountable Health Communities is supported by Funding Opportunity Number CMS-1P1-17-001 from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.


Founded in 1913, United Way of Greater Cleveland is a local, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting poverty across the Greater Cleveland area. The largest private-sector investor of health and human services, United Way invests in efforts that address poverty using a two-pronged approach. The first prong focuses on the daily issues affecting those living in poverty, the Community Hub for Basic Needs. The second drives research and innovation through the Impact Institute, a think tank with an action plan, focused on identifying long-term solutions to break the cycle of poverty. For more information or to make a donation, please visit www.unitedwaycleveland.org.

Media contacts
Katie Connell (404-895-5513) kconnell@unitedwaycleveland.org
Savannah Heck (440-281-3934) sheck@unitedwaycleveland.org