The 411 on 211

May 2023 View more

New hotline connects DuPage residents to key services

A red rotary telephone

Just when you thought the old-school telephone hotline was a relic amid today’s everything-everywhere-all-at-once information overload culture, DuPage County has rolled out a new three-digit service that it believes many citizens will come to rely upon for access to a host of county resources.

211 DuPage was launched in November to connect callers with information on a wide array of needs, including crisis and emergency counseling; disaster, food, health care, insurance, stable housing, and utilities payment assistance; as well as employment, veteran, childcare, and family services. As a local version of a network used in towns and counties across the country, 211 DuPage is available around-the-clock and was funded by $1.6 million in federal pandemic relief aid to replace a previous 10-digit county number that was answered only during business hours.

Greg Schwarze, chair of the county’s Human Services Committee, describes the 211 hotline as “the place to call when you don’t know who to call”–a free and confidential information and referral resource that serves as a central access point to local health and human services agencies in DuPage County. It is not, however, meant to be an emergency line or a suicide hotline.(Residents should still use 911 and 988, respectively, for those needs.) Nor is it intended to be a reporting outlet for municipal-related services like potholes or broken streetlights.

The county’s 18 hotline operators listen to the issues callers are dealing with and direct them to agencies that can provide the appropriate resources. A partnership with the Addison Consolidated Dispatch Center provides operators for time periods outside of regular business hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays.

“We knew, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, that residents need access to health or human services information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Schwarze explains. “211 DuPage provides our residents with an easy-to-remember phone number that gives them immediate access to help anytime they need it.”

Schwarze says 211 DuPage is seeing an average of about 250 calls per month in the early going, with many callers looking for help finding rental or utility payment assistance, locating the nearest food pantry or homeless shelter, and accessing mental health services. Given the hotline’s popularity, the county anticipates expanding it in the next few years, possibly by adding a text and chat function for greater flexibility. The goal, Schwarze notes, is simply to help as many residents as possible to find the information and services they need.

“Our specialists have been trained to assess the caller’s situation and work to find the best solution for the situation,” he says, adding that 211 DuPage is meant to provide caring help, not just serve as a switchboard. “We work diligently to solve as many problems as we can and get every caller connected with the services that will improve their situation.”

For more information, visit

When to Call 211

• Crisis and emergency counseling

• Disaster assistance

• Food assistance

• Health care and insurance assistance

• Stable housing and utilities payment assistance

• Employment services

• Veteran services

• Childcare and family services


Photo courtesy of Istock images