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211 for Coordinated Entry for Homeless Services

Persons experiencing homelessness in Lee County now have a streamlined, reliable, and consistent way to access the help they so desperately need. Anyone needing homeless services in our community should first call 211 from any phone, any time of day or night. A live, trained call specialist will direct the caller to appropriate local resources.

Want to know more? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions below:

What is coordinated entry?

Simply put, coordinated entry is a consistent, streamlined process that ensures that persons experiencing homelessness receive appropriate services. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that communities with agencies that receive certain federal housing grants establish and use a coordinated entry process. Such a process ensures that everyone has access to all appropriate resources. If a community doesn’t have coordinated entry, incomplete or inappropriate referrals are common. That can lead to people receiving fewer (or more) services than they need, simply because the referral source wasn’t aware of all possible resources.

In Lee County, we are using United Way’s NC211 service for coordinated entry. NC211 has a robust database of community resources, and call specialists are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. NC211 is free, confidential, and multilingual, and because it’s always open, callers can access the most up-to-date and accurate information available.

How does 211 for coordinated entry work?

In Lee County, anyone experiencing homelessness should first call 211 from any phone. The caller is connected to a trained, caring call specialist who will ask some questions to determine the caller’s specific needs. Based on established criteria, the caller will then be directed either to emergency shelter or to other appropriate local resources. If the caller is referred to one of our emergency shelters, the 211 call specialist will begin the intake process while the caller is still on the line. The shelter staff is then given that information, so that when the caller arrives, the in-person intake process will be easier and shorter.

Why can’t people who need homeless services just go directly to one of our shelters?

If someone goes to a shelter or other agency and isn’t eligible for the services that organization provides, that’s quite discouraging. The person may have spent very limited resources and a lot of time to get to the agency, only to find out that they should have gone somewhere else. Calling 211 avoids this situation entirely—callers are sent to agencies that can meet their specific needs. There are different types of services available for persons experiencing homelessness, and each is appropriate in certain circumstances. The 211 operators are specially trained to screen callers to determine what services are best for each caller.

A coordinated entry system provides vital data, helping service providers to see what services are most needed, who needs them, and what gaps in service may exist in the community. For these reasons, we ask that you direct anyone who needs homeless services to call 211 and not go directly to a shelter or other organization. (If someone does go directly to a shelter, they will be directed to call 211 upon arrival to begin the screening and intake process.)

Persons experiencing homelessness sometimes come to my church, business, or nonprofit organization for help. What should I do?

Just have them call 211; the 211 operator will take it from there. If the person doesn’t have a phone, it’s very helpful if the church, business, or agency can provide a phone for them to use. As noted above, please don’t send the person to a shelter or other agency—just call 211.

What if I’m in a domestic violence situation?

Persons experiencing domestic violence can call 211, or they may call 919-774-8923, HAVEN in Lee County’s 24-hour crisis hotline. Persons experiencing homelessness who are not in a domestic violence situation should not call HAVEN, but should call 211.

What if I’m not homeless, but I need emergency assistance with food, rent, utilities, etc.?

Just call 211! A live, trained operator will direct you to local resources that may be able to help.