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Online Social Services

Online directory helps needy locate region’s social services

By KIRSTIN LINDERMAYER

Philadelphia Daily News

For Philadelphia-area residents in need of counseling, food assistance and other social services, help is now just a mouse-click away.

A Web site connecting people to thousands of social-service organizations in southeastern Pennsylvania launched today.

The Web directory – called CONNECT211.org – includes more than 12,000 regional organizations that provide services, including drug-and-alcohol counseling, child care and emergency housing.

People can search for providers by address, ZIP code or neighborhood. The system provides contact information for each organization, including a hyperlink to its Web site – when available – and a map. The directory will even generate directions.

CONNECT211.org is a collaboration of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children and six United Ways serving southeastern Pennsylvania.

“It’s a one-stop shop for people looking for specific services that target human needs,” said Sharon Easterling, the association’s executive director.

“People go to the Internet almost as a first impulse to find resources. The time for this has really come.”

For people who don’t have Internet access at home, the Free Library of Philadelphia intends to provide access to CONNECT 211.org soon through computers at the library’s 56 branches.

Also in the works is a 2-1-1 phone service to connect people to a wide range of social services through a single phone call.

“Typically, when someone needs help, it’s more than just one thing,” said Sara McCullough, director of the United Ways of the Delaware Valley. “If they need fuel assistance, they usually need other things, too.”

A 24-hour 2-1-1 line should be running in southeastern Pennsylvania by next year, she said. Pennsylvania is one of the last states to offer this type of service, which is already available in New Jersey and New York.

McCullough said the timing is right for 2-1-1, partly because city officials are preparing to launch a 3-1-1 service that city residents can call for nonemergencies, like fallen tree limbs or trash complaints.

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