Essential Needs

Millions of people contact 211 every year for help with food, housing, healthcare, and more.

It can be difficult to find local help to put food on the table, find a safe place to live, or access affordable healthcare. No matter what you or someone you care about needs right now, 211 can help you find available services and resources in your community. 

Housing & Housing Expenses 

The cost of housing in the U.S. has been steadily increasing in years, especially in major cities like San Francisco and Boston. Families that do have housing often struggle to regularly pay utilities bills, rent, and other necessary expenses. Despite programs like Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), millions of people in the U.S. are unable to find or stay in safe, accessible housing and over 500,000 are homeless. 211 receives more requests for help with finding housing or shelter or paying utilities bills (over 4.4 million each year) than for any other issue. Whether you need to find an emergency shelter, avoid homelessness, or find help staying in your home, contact 211 for support. 

Food & Hunger 

Did you know that 41 million people in the U.S. are food insecure? This means 1 in 8 households has trouble getting food, a shortage of food in the house, or reduced food intake (i.e., there might not be dinner every night this week because payday is Friday). Your local 211 can help you find and access resources in your community like food pantries, meal delivery services, and public benefits like SNAP and WIC. In fact, 211 receives more than 2 million requests for assistance with food and hunger each year

Already a SNAP recipient? Fresh EBT is a free smart phone app available to check your SNAP balance and purchase history.  Fresh EBT also includes a COVID response help center with information about changes to government benefits programs and connections to local organizations and resources.  Learn more or download Fresh EBT at

Financial Assistance 

We know many people struggle with expenses beyond food and housing. It can be difficult to find affordable healthcare, purchase necessary medications, or pay for transportation to get to and from work. Every day, 211s help thousands of people access financial assistance from local non-profits and faith-based organizations, as well as ensuring people are enrolled in public benefits for which they are eligible. If you’re struggling financially, contact 211 today to speak to a local specialist about what may be available in your community. You can also explore these resources online: 

  • Prescription Savings Card offered by FamilyWize gives you discounts regardless of health insurance status. You can even search for your medication to find out how much it costs at different pharmacies. 

  • Use the Benefit Finder to see what federal benefits you, your family members, or your clients may be eligible for. 

  • Don’t forget to file your taxes each year to receive a federal or state income tax refund. You can use MyFreeTaxes or IRS Free File products to file easily for free, or call 211 and ask about VITA services for in-person help. 


Every year, 211 specialists make more than 1.7 million connections between people and healthcare providers, health insurance options, and medical bill assistance. Whether you have health insurance or not, healthcare can be very expensive, especially for emergency room visits or diagnostic tests like X-rays. Many health insurance plans don’t cover mental health or substance use treatment, and it may be difficult to find low-cost or free services. Contact 211 to learn more about what’s available in your community. You can also find a nearby Health Center here that offers services on a sliding scale according to your ability to pay. 


Need help? Dial 211 or search for more information about your local 211 in the search bar above. 

If you are a local service provider interested in partnering with 211 or ensuring your information is included in a 211 database, search for your local 211 above and contact them directly to discuss.

211 conversations are confidential, can be made anonymously, and callers can request translations services for 180 languages. 211 is available to anyone regardless of race, color, religion, language, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, immigration status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, age, membership in an employee organization, parental status, military service, or other factor.