211 Information and Referral Search is a non-profit telephone call line and internet information portal that has coverage in at least parts of 46 states as of August 2010. At least some of the states provide 24 hour a day phone coverage.I called it at 11:15 PM and spoke to a live representative!
By phone, callers call dial 211 to find local contact information on everything under the sun, sort of speak, in terms of social service/ nonprofit agencies. In other words, places to get help. Just a very few examples are info on local fuel assistance agencies, low income housing, homeless shelters, food banks ad no cost meal programs that are sometimes called called soup kitchens.
211 has a web-page as well. To find needed programs; first, type 211 into the internet search box.211 Call Center Search will show up.Clicking that bring the national 211Information and Referral Search home page.
Here's a step by step account of how my(Michelle) recent search session went like. I typed in the zip-code for my town and then a nearby city. There is a search box for typing in towns and cities as well as clicking on state names.
211 Maine link then came up and I clicked on that. Towards the top of the the Maine 211 page, there's several categories to choose from,. I chose Find Help and then clicked on the top choice:Search the 211 Directory.In the search-box, I typed free clothes. A bunch of search results came up. There is actually a free clothing store in my area that was not listed however. There is a contact info link at the top of the page.
The info on their program page http://211us.org/ encourages people to send them an email about known available programs that aren't listed. I also strongly ask others to do the same so that more people can be helped. I found the email for my state and just sent one their way.
I also looked for and found area heating assistance, ASL interpretive services, an area dental clinic, child care referral. I had to scroll down a bit to find what I wanted for that cause the referral agency is in a larger city and the results for a general search like come up as closest to the what has been typed in for your city or zip.
There is also a 211 in parts of Canada now:http://www.211canada.ca/