2-1-1 line to assist students


2-1-1 line to assist students

By Jessie Kern

DeKALB — A free community service that caters to the needs of students is only a phone call away for those who find themselves in need of assistance financially, emotionally or domestically.

The DeKalb County 2-1-1 service launched in June and offers a variety of social services at no charge. DeKalb residents and students can dial 2-1-1 from any phone and receive guidance from trained operators on topics such as rent and utility assistance, food assistance, legal assistance and day care.

“2-1-1 is actually a nationwide initiative, and we have been talking about 2-1-1 for a number of years in our area and finally pulled together the different resources and funding that we needed to launch it this last june,” said Dawn Littlefield, executive director of Kishwaukee United Way.

Kishwaukee United Way is a non-profit organization that works to improve DeKalb and share resources as a community. Littlefield said without local funders — Northwestern Medicine Kid’s health, First Midwest Bank, the Community Foundation, NIU and the local township office — 2-1-1 would not be able to start up.

Senior communications major Evie Suko said she feels the service has the potential to be helpful to new students.

“I feel like freshmen, and especially transfer students, could really benefit from using that line because they’re new to DeKalb, and it would be something that they would be able to at least find out more,” Suko said. “Especially if they didn’t really know that many people around and stuff, it’s something that they can personally do.”

The service acts as a directory in which callers are referred to the appropriate service to assist them. The service is meant to help match callers with the services they are in need of, whereas 9-1-1 is designed as a first responder, according to Kishwaukee United Way’s website.

Individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts, addiction problems or an abusive relationship can all seek help by dialing 2-1-1 or visitingfindhelp211.org.

“We tried to encompass all services that were free of charge,” Littlefield said. “So whether a student is struggling in a particular area, if they want to seek counseling or assistive resources, or even if they’re hungry and they need some support until the end of the month.”

This service is available 24/7 for any members of the DeKalb community. All conversations with 2-1-1 operators remain confidential between the individual and 2-1-1 staff member.

Littlefield said although some of the services are meant to exclusively benefit students, overall, the program is intended for the use of the entire community.

“We had some partnership with NIU; certainly they were part of our conversation ,and there’s a lot of services that are for students only, but there’s a lot also in the community that are for everyone,” Littlefield said.