To the side of the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale Tuesday morning sat a 38-foot bus filled with professionals eager to help with just about anything possible.
United Way of Rhode Island’s 2-1-1 Outreach RV makes about 24 stops every month around the state, functioning as a mobile resource center. Whether visitors are seeking health or housing assistance, or looking for information about tax preparation, a specialist is waiting in the RV to answer questions and connect people with the services they need.
The RV’s local stop included workers from the Thundermist Health Center of South County providing blood pressure screenings and information about their organization’s services. The visit is part of United Way of Rhode Island’s 2-1-1 program, which was established in 2007 as a 24-hour hotline.
In 2016, the state’s United Way chapter received more requests for housing/shelter assistance (112,563) and health information (92,660) than any time in the last eight years. There were declines, however, in requests for financial assistance, foreclosure prevention information and food.
Going forward, the 2-1-1 RV will stop at the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale on the second Tuesday of each month, with workers from local organizations participating.
Jay Burdick, the program outreach coordinator and driver of the RV, said, “Washington County is very under-served” by such programs. The RV’s first few trips to the area will help United Way establish what local services are needed so assistance might be delivered most effectively.
The RV features five work stations with computers, Wi-Fi and five phones. Last year, it reached an estimated 76,614 people in the state across 504 stops. It provided health screenings to 2,728 people and direct services to 34,023.
The vehicle was donated to the organization from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island after the company’s wellness program was contracted out. It visits food pantries, homeless shelters and community partners around the state. A list of 30 partners rotate and travel with the RV, including Blue Cross, AIDS Project RI and the state Department of Human Services.
Currently, the RV is focused on providing information on school health care. It had previously featured information about tax preparation. However, it contains a wall dedicated to pamphlets and fliers from various organizations in the state, and one-on-one referrals on a broad-range of topics can be provided.