Virginia 211 helps people with utility bills, housing, food

Virginia 211 is working to connect people in Southwest Virginia with the resources they need. 

Across our region, the biggest need over the past few months has been for help with utilities, housing and shelter, and food. The 24 hour a day call-center helps to connect people in the community with free or sliding rate resources that can help them with the issues they’re facing right now. 

In Roanoke City, there have been more than 981 calls for shelter in the past year, followed by about 650 calls for help with utilities. In Campbell County, utilities have been the biggest need too, with almost 600 calls over the past year. That’s followed by about 380 calls for housing and shelter assistance.

While the majority of the calls are focused on those needs, Virginia 211 has a wide range of resources they can offer to help.

“That might be anything from basic needs, like food, clothing and shelter to other health and human services,” says Carissa South, the regional coordinator for Virginia 211.

You can dial 211 from any phone to be connected. The service doesn’t directly provide the resources for offering assistance that people are calling for, instead a trained professional listens to your need situation. They’ll search through one of the largest databases of health and human services in Virginia to find the best free or reduced rate resource for each caller.  

South says there have been more than 2,000 calls for utility assistance over the past year, but what makes this year’s trend so different is who has been calling. 

“We’re getting a lot of first-time callers,” she says. “ So it’s hard for us to say whether it’s 211 awareness or if there’s an increase need. But I feel like there’s been that really cold snap and other underlying problems but we are seeing an increase any for utility assistance all across the state.”

It’s an increased need expected to last throughout the winter. 

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