Economic distress doesn’t recognize county lines

OK, be honest: How many North of 96th-ers saw IBJ’s Dec. 7 story about the Connec2Help 2-1-1 call center and thought, “That has nothing to do with me. I live in an affluent suburb”?

Turns out you’re only partially right. Although Hamilton and Boone counties are indeed home to upscale communities, such locales are not immune to problems like unemployment, homelessness and food insecurity.

Economic, emotional and physical catastrophes don’t recognize county lines.

During the last fiscal year, in fact, more than 3,200 Hamilton County residents called the Connect2Help referral service; 635 Boone County residents sought help by phone. About the same number searched an online database of services.

The top need in both counties: housing. Utility assistance was a close second. Food requests were among the top five “unmet” needs, usually the result of a resource not being available or the caller not qualifying for help.

Connect2Help serves 25 Indiana counties, including Boone and Hamilton. Its resource specialists act as matchmakers of sorts, referring clients to the agencies that deliver services.

To the uninitiated, it may seem like an additional layer of bureaucracy. To clients, it’s a lifeline—making efficient, effective connections when they’re needed the most.

That disconnect is straining resources at Connect2Help and other centers like it. The 2-1-1 network is accessible to about 90 percent of U.S. residents, including all of Indiana, but public funding for the initiative is scarce.  

“People on the street who need a place to stay tonight know about us,” Operations Director Shari Morgan told my Hamilton County Leadership Academy class last month. “People who can make a difference with funding don’t.”

What’s your take on the level of need north of 96th Street and the resources available to address it?

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