United Way’s 2-1-1 Information Service Stands Ready to Help Those Impacted by Hurricane Irma

With Hurricane Irma on course to hit Florida, United Way stands ready to help storm victims with 2-1-1, an information and referral service that can provide local information about shelters, food and water, health resources, and other needs related to hurricane recovery or anything else. Anyone in need of assistance should call or text 2-1-1 to connect with a trained specialist for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

2-1-1 centers from to have stepped up to help people in Irma’s path. As a national network, 2-1-1s will continue to answer calls and texts from residents in the Southeast even if centers in the region close due to hurricane damage. If phone services are impacted, residents can text “Irma” to 898-211.

2-1-1 specialists can answer questions regarding the following:

  • Shelter locations
  • Where to get food
  • Where to get supplies
  • Help accessing disaster programs
  • Other non-life threatening emergencies

“In the wake of the devastation from Hurricane Harvey, we are once again preparing our 2-1-1 call centers to help people impacted by this dangerous storm,” said United Way Worldwide U.S. President Mary Sellers. “We urge anyone in crisis to reach out to us with question or concerns throughout the weekend.”

Further, in anticipation of the devastation expected to impact the region, United Way has created the United Way Irma Recovery Fund to support local communities in the and affected by Hurricane Irma. United Ways in the affected areas will continue to raise money locally and respond to emerging needs as appropriate. United Way’s Irma Recovery fund will complement those efforts, help smaller United Ways who may not have the capacity to create their own fund and provide a single clearinghouse for individual and corporate donors who want to help.

United Way’s focus will be on mid-and long-term recovery and 100 percent of individual donations given to the United Way Irma Recovery Fund will be used to meet storm-related needs in the affected areas. The money will be distributed to United Ways in the affected areas of the Southeast United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and trusted partners in other affected areas of the Caribbean.

United Way has a history of serving as the cornerstone for long-term recovery after natural disasters including Hurricane Katrina, as well as flooding in Tamil Nadu, India. United Way is laying the ground work for mid- and long-term recovery in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma, which is expected to take several years. The United Way Irma Recovery Fund is just one more way the organization will continue the fight for every person in every community.

To donate or volunteer, please go to www.unitedway.org.

Thousands Affected by Texas Floods: How Social Workers Can Help

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Thousands of Texas residents, including nearly 2,000 residents of a correctional facility in located Brazoria County, are being forced to evacuate their homes as rising Texas floodwaters prompt local and state officials to continue issuing mandatory evacuations in several Texas counties.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has officially declared a State of Disaster for 31 Texas counties. In a press conference held after touring some of the state’s most flood-affected areas on Thursday, Gov. Abbott addressed state plans for aiding Texas flood victims and stressed the importance for citizens to listen to local evacuation mandates.

“Remember this, and that is your life is far more valuable than your property,” he said, directing his statements toward all Texans. “If you are told by a local official to evacuate, heed that warning.”

With the number of people displaced by the disaster, social workers can play a pivotal role in helping flood victims receive the services they need. In 2003, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) released a statement identifying social workers as “uniquely suited to interpret the disaster context, to advocate for effective services, and to provide leadership in essential collaborations among institutions and organizations.”

However, social workers should be mindful of state laws and statutes regarding the provision of social work services. In Texas, social workers are able to provide services to people in response to a disaster only within the limits provided by Texas statute.

Volunteers providing disaster relief services in Texas who do not hold a board approved Texas license, may not present themselves under the title Social Worker, use a title that implies current licensure in the state of Texas, or promote they are representing services as social workers.

Additionally, because of the successful work done by members in the Texas Chapter of NASW, a bill passed in the 84th Texas Legislative Session extending liability protections to licensed social workers and retired social workers, giving them immunity from liability in Texas when representing themselves as “volunteer health care providers”.

The American Red Cross has set up a number of shelters in affected areas in addition to providing flood victims with food, hygiene products, and other needed supplies. Social workers and other helping professionals are highly encouraged to volunteer. You can get more information by visiting redcross.org/volunteer or by calling 713-313-5491.

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