Local agencies helping residents survive COVID crisis

2-1-1 Helpline correspondent works diligently to assist incoming callers 24 hours a day. Photo courtesy Tallahassee.com

People in the greater Tallahassee area have been faced with unprecedented  hardships during the ongoing pandemic that have forced them to go without basic living essentials such as food, shelter and, most importantly, reliable income that would help them pay bills in a timely manner.

Programs such as the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, the Salvation Army and more are positioned with resources to provide open access with just the dial of the finger. All it requires is a listening ear, patience and receptiveness to receive help.

The purpose of these services is to assist with financial and living stability such as rent, utilities, food, shelter and more. While most programs offer a wide range of resources, people are encouraged to voice their needs with urgency as limited funding is provided on a first-come first-served basis at different periods throughout each month.

The Big Bend Homeless Coalition is a non-profit organization whose focus is to end homelessness through leadership, education and advocacy, according to its mission statement on bigbendhc.org. The program has an automated caller service, the 2-1-1 Helpline to connect callers with information, referrals and confidential phone counseling with trained professionals.

Shannon is a 2-1-1 Big Bend correspondent who said she was not allowed provide her full name.

“Privacy is extremely important to follow because people’s lives are in jeopardy and it’s personal when our callers are very vulnerable. We want our callers to feel comfortable with us and it would not be possible if we weren’t confidential,” Shannon said.

A young man smiling with the hope that Big Bend 2-1-1 Helpline will support his need.
Photo courtesy 211bigbend.org

The helpline services the  eight-county Big Bend region. By dialing 2-1-1 a caller gains access to programs available to them with a database that contains human service agencies and mental health providers. Information is updated frequently to ensure callers are being helped with accurate details.

“A lot of our places are either federally funded or by donations but honestly, we refer so many people that programs run out of funding. It’s disheartening there are limited funding and I do wish that we had more places. Even if we do not have a resource, we encourage callers to keep calling programs for when funds are available,” Shannon said.

The money to pay for bills such as rent and utilities, can become scarce during a time where people are without jobs and other unforeseen circumstances. When families endure hardships, programs like the Salvation Army, a faith-based funded organization through the government, is designed not only to preach the gospel but to perform the gospel through physical and spiritual outreach.

According to its website, the Salvation Army is focused on preventing homelessness in communities they serve. Housing challenges are not predictable or limited to a certain type of person, and it could happen to anyone. Some causes may be unemployment or a medical emergency. They will also to help those who are currently homeless get back on their feet.

Based on a phone call with Salvation Army, the Tallahassee location is assisting only with utility bills, in terms of housing needs at this time. To acquire more services about resources the website tells us more. For more information they can be reach at (850) 222-0304 weekdays.

Housing-type needs include, rent, utility bills, and other costs. Most of this aid is offered to those facing imminent eviction or disconnection of their power. Income limits need to be met, proof of hardship is needed, and full documentation will be required by Salvation Army caseworkers, according to needhelppayingbills.com.