211 Metro Chicago was a decade in the making.

The free, confidential helpline was launched by United Way of Metro Chicago, the City of Chicago, and Cook County in January 2023. 2-1-1 connects Cook County residents to essential health and social service resources and is a natural extension of the critical work we have been doing for 90 years – the work of meeting our neighbors’ basic needs.

“We have seen great success with 2-1-1 lines across North America, which have connected millions of people in need to local organizations that can help,” said Sean Garrett, president and CEO of United Way of Metro Chicago. “With Chicago and Cook County now part of the 2-1-1 network, all Cook County residents are just one text, chat, or phone call away from an expansive database of incredible social services. We are thrilled to be a part of bringing this critical connection to the greater metro Chicago area.” 

When residents need support, too often, they either don’t know where to turn or face hurdles in navigating the complex web of resources available in Cook County. 211 Metro Chicago eliminates these barriers. When someone contacts 2-1-1 via phone, text, or web chat, a compassionate Resource Navigator is on the other end of the line. They assess the resident’s needs and connect them to non-emergency providers for support. Local Resource Navigators are trained staff who are available 24/7/365.

“2-1-1 is a valuable service for people seeking assistance during difficult times,” said Liccia Latham, Resource Navigator for 211 Metro Chicago. “As a Resource Navigator, my focus is on providing information and referrals to resources to address the needs of community members.”  

Resource Navigators like Liccia connect residents with a variety of resources such as food, housing, utility payment assistance, and other free-to-low-cost health and social services. In just the first six months of operation, 2-1-1 reached more than 20,000 contacts over phone, text, and web chat, highlighting a need – and how 2-1-1 is already making an impact.  

“Personally, I treat each case as though I’m dealing with family,” Liccia said. “With a compassionate ear and knowledgeable experience, I filter out the best resources available to meet the community members’ immediate needs.”

211 Metro Chicago is operated by United Way of Metro Chicago, but its launch was only possible thanks to support and partnership with the City of Chicago, Cook County, philanthropic partners, and the 211 Metro Chicago Advisory Committee composed of business, civic, charitable, and social service organizations. Progress takes a village – and the launch of 2-1-1 was no exception. 

“Government needs to have partnerships with philanthropy and the business community if we’re going to effectively serve the people of Cook County,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “I’m grateful that United Way has taken the lead on [211 Metro Chicago], bringing everyone together to put this system in place and making it happen.” 

Thank You to Our Funders 

Special thanks to our public, private, and philanthropic partners for their generous support of 211 Metro Chicago.   

  • American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund as administered by the United States Department of Treasury
  • Anonymous
  • Arie and Ida Crown Memorial
  • Builders Initiative Foundation
  • Chicago Community Trust
  • The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • The Joyce Foundation
  • Lloyd A. Fry Foundation
  • Northern Trust
  • Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute
  • Pritzker Foundation
  • Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation
  • Robert R. McCormick Foundation
  • Steans Family Foundation

Learn more about 211 Metro Chicago.