FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – 211 Broward — the free helpline which connects people in need with a wide range of services — needs help itself.
The agency is trying to close a $25,000 budget shortfall.
Laurie Sallarulo, 211 Broward’s Chief Development and Strategic Officer, said the agency will continue to operate but they might be forced to dip into next year’s fund raising. The agency wants to avoid that.
“I think every single citizen needs to invest in 211 so that if they, or someone in their family or someone they know ever has a problem, it’s there for them,” Sallarulo said.
211 serves all residents in Broward and has seen its’ call volume double in the past five years. As the economy spiraled, more and more people found themselves looking for basic services like food, clothing and rental assistance. 211 Broward also provides services for seniors, working parents and teens.
“We see people who are calling for the first time,” Sallarulo said. “High numbers of people for the first time falling into poverty — middle class people.”
And while the volume of calls has increased, staffing at 211 Broward has stayed the same.
Sallarulo said they would like to hire more counselors — all of whom have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work. But the funding simply isn’t there.
Maureen Victor can attest to the work done by 211 Broward. In November 2009, her hours at work were cut and she had trouble paying the rent on the apartment she shares with her teenage daughter. She soon received an eviction notice.
“It was very difficult because I didn’t know where I was gonna end up,” Victor said. “I was getting into a panic stage.”
She didn’t know where to turn. A man told her to call 211. A counselor told her she might qualify for government assistance to help with her rent. She soon settled her home life and found a full time job. She credits 211 Broward with helping to stabilize her situation.
“(211 Broward) is very helpful and it needs to continue because there’s a lot of people who get themselves in that situation because of the economy,” Victor said.
Diana Pinero is a Homeless Counselor at 211 Broward. She said her job is to provide information to people who aren’t sure where to turn. But she also works to provide hope.
“A lot of (callers) have never seen themselves homeless, without a job and they’re at a point where they feel they can’t keep going on with their lives,” Pinero said. “If they have a little bit of hope that they’re able to go somewhere and start life all over again, you’ll be amazed how content they can be.”
211 Broward does not receive state or federal funding and relies solely on donations and sponsorships. The agency’s four core supporters are The United Way, Children’s Services Council of Broward County, the Department of Children and Families and Broward County.
211 Broward is in the midst of a Break Even Campaign. Initially, the agency faced a $200,000 shortfall. Through budget cuts and fund raising, 211 Broward cut the deficit to $25,000.
To read more about 211 Broward and find out how you can help, visit www.211-broward.org