Kasey Harlos is the Senior Director at 211 and Disaster Response for Mile High United Way. They’ve answered some questions below to help librarians around Colorado learn about their organization, agency, and/or services.
Below, you’ll learn about 211 Colorado’s Database and Community Resource Managers, and their potential to help you serve your community. In addition, at the end of this post we’ve included some of their resources for you to view and/or use.
Tell us who you are and what you do for 211 Colorado.
Kasey Harlos, Sr. Director 211 & Disaster Response for Mile High United Way. I work to develop and implement strategies, facilitate the growth of partnerships, and further develop resources including funding, supplies, and volunteer supports to ensure Mile High United Way and our 211 Help Center Program are prepared and continue to do their best to serve and support communities across the State of Colorado when help is needed most whether that be to meet critical needs that our community members are challenged with every day or in the event of a disaster. I also am the current Vice-Chair of Colorado’s Voluntary Organization’s Active in Disaster which allows me to work closely in partnership with government, nonprofit, and faith-based organizations and leaders to align and respond to disasters that impact our communities in Colorado through unified support and efforts.
How can 211 Colorado partner with a library to offer resources or programming to the local community of library visitors and users?
2-1-1 is an easy to remember, 3-digit number, that is confidential and connects people, free of charge, to community resources including basic needs, social, health, disaster and government services. When callers contact the 2-1-1 Help Center by dialing those three easy digits, they are connected to one of our Community Resource Navigators, who has access to a database of than 7,000 services that can assist them in working with each individual caller to find the best resources and service to meet their needs from food, shelter, housing, rent/utility payment assistance, emergency shelter, clothing, transportation assistance, substance abuse treatment, child care, senior services, medical and dental care, immigration information or legal services, prescriptions, mental health providers, home repair, and many other services. The 2-1-1 Help Center is a free resource that is available for everyone in the state of Colorado regardless of age, income, gender identity, legal status, or ethnicity. Services are provided in both English and Spanish, and all Community Resource Navigators have access to a Language Line that offers live translation services for more than 200 languages in real time, while on the call. Colorado families and individuals will continue to seek basic needs services, whether in times of emergency or on an ordinary day, and 211 is the consistent phone number to call or text at (*898-211) to get help now, as well as online resources that are accessible 24 hours a day at https://www.211colorado.org/. Our goal is to provide accurate, timely information to callers that meet their most critical needs.
Anyone in need, whether it be for a shelter for the night, a hot meal, a ride to that hot meal, or a shower or place to stay warm this winter, 211 is three simple digits that you can dial to get help now to address any critical need that you or someone you know is facing.
What needs or challenges can 211 Colorado help libraries address for their communities?
Any visitors that need help with address basic needs or making ends meet, looking for help getting back on their feet, or just need a little extra hand to get through the end of the month and cover bills can call 211, text 898-211, or visit 211colorado.org to engage with us and allow us the opportunity to get the resources and support into the hands of those that need them. 211 is the 911 for health and human services connection – a one stop shop for information and connection to resources to help our community members when they need it most.
What regions – cities, counties, areas – of Colorado does your organization reach?
The state of Colorado is split into 6 regions and center supports that together makes the 211 Statewide Collaborative. The 211 Statewide Collaborative brings all center representatives together to align and enable 211 Colorado to be a statewide service offering. Visit: https://www.211colorado.org/#serviceareas for contact information and more about each region! All of our centers share and utilize the same statewide database or resource library to narrow down our resource search to any zip code, county, or city in the state to ensure we find the right resources to meet the needs of the specific caller that are available closest to them!
Do the services or resources from 211 Colorado cost any money?
211 is a free service to the community. All resources and services that 211 provides or connects to the community are free or low cost. For example, of the range of resources/service offerings: We have resources that can help someone pay their rent, mortgage, or utility or Wi-Fi/cable bills, free food pantries, day shelters with free showers, laundry access, mail and storage, free transportation resources, behavioral health and substance use supports, and then low cost or reduced medical and health supports, low-cost or free veterinary options, and the list goes on. Our goal through 211 is to be the hub and place anyone can turn to in order to access help when they are struggling to get by or challenged with making ends meet.
Do libraries have to provide any funds or apply to any grants to work with 211 Colorado?
No, any library can call or utilize our 211 services at any time. We are a free and confidential service, you can call or use our service on behalf of a visitor or to support a visitor or community member, or you can offer our information and recommend they call or connect with 211 directly.
Do libraries have to provide any staff, volunteers, or training in order to run your programs or provide resources or services with 211 Colorado?
No, you can start today! Libraries can make 211colorado.org a main page on their computers (this idea has always been a dream of mine to partner and see come to fruition) and/or utilize 211 however they best see fit in order to best serve their community. 211 does offer a free walk through of our 211colorado.org webpage to guide and support anyone interested in learning tips and tricks for searching resources, setting up a free account, or creating resources lists that can be saved and referred back to or shared to serve a specific need, group, or population that we are always open to setting up!
We also offer virtual volunteer opportunities through 211 for anyone interested in volunteering and supporting our 211 efforts through calling back community members to ensure they received the help that they needed through 211. Click here for more information.
What support can you offer libraries to help them access additional resources or funding to bring 211 Colorado to their library?
Promoting 211 in your own programs should require very little operational lift and there is no cost to access our services and offerings as we are a free service and accessible to all of Colorado. Please visit, https://www.211colorado.org/ to learn more and access resource information now!
Let’s say one of our librarians, directors, or staff contact you and says, “We want to bring 211 Colorado to our community!” What will the next step look like?
Speaking as the representative of region 2 of the 211 Colorado Statewide Collaborative, we are always interested in exploring funding opportunities and partnerships specifically around in-person walk in service support. This is a strategy that we are currently exploring with other partners in the Denver area with 4 site locations that we expect to open next year. 211 walk-in service offerings vary by each region of the state. To contact your local region representative, please reach out and I will be happy to make an introduction!
For general 211 information, we have 211 cards and information packets that we can email or mail you for free!
We also love invites to resource fairs or community engagement events and do our best to join tabling events and outreach events in the community! Send us an invite and we will do our best to join to provide 211 in-person support or promotion at an upcoming event!
You will be attending a Virtual Partner Forum with the Colorado State Library on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 at 11AM where you can answer questions directly from Colorado libraries who are able to attend. How else can people reach you?
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly anytime via email at email@example.com or my work cell at 303.514.6478
Not every resource or partner that we highlight will meet the needs or fit in with the mission of every library or community that will read this post. Furthermore, no single interview can include every available opportunity to work with 211 Colorado and Mile High United Way.
211 Colorado’s Database and Community Resource Managers attended our Virtual Partner Forum on Tuesday, January 10 at 11AM. If you were unable to attend you can find the video on YouTube or embedded here.
If you have questions about 211 Colorado or how to find their resources, feel free to email me – Cristy Moran, Adult Library Services Senior Consultant at the Colorado State Library – at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kasey Harlos directly at the contact information listed in the interview above.
- 211 Colorado Spotlight Presentation (PDF)
- 211 General Brochure PDF
- 211 General English_Spanish PDF
- 211 Help is 3 Numbers Away Venn Diagram PDF
- 211 Ride United Lyft Flyer PDF
- 211 SNAP Flyer PDF
- 211 SNAP Folded Card Bilingual_1.4.23 PDF
- 211_Folded Card Bilingual_1.4.23 PDF
- Colorado 211 One Pager PDF
- Colorado Shines Childcare Referral – English PDF
- Colorado Shines Childcare Referral – Spanish PDF