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Press Release

211 Impact Survey Uncovers Widespread Unmet Community Needs Nationwide

Alexandria, VA — Today, United Way Worldwide released the highly anticipated 2023 211 Impact Survey – the only of its kind to collect data from all 50 states – offering valuable insights into the trends and challenges faced by households and communities across the country. The survey results of nearly 16 million requests* and 19 million referrals* show housing, utilities, and food assistance remain the top needs of people seeking support nationwide. The 211 network, supported by United Way Worldwide, receives an average of 42,000 calls per day.

“The 211 network, a lifeline for people and communities in need, is not just about connecting people to services. This system is about providing hope and support at moments when people feel most alone and unable to meet their basic needs like a roof over their head,” said Angela F. Williams, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide. “These results reinforce what we already know — there are still massive, and very concerning need gaps nationwide, particularly as it relates to everyday necessities."

Key findings from the 2023 211 Impact Survey:

  • Housing assistance referrals continue to increase, with total referrals nearly double pre-pandemic numbers. Housing-related requests were up in 2023 to 5.3 million compared to 2.6 million in 2018.
    • Referrals for housing assistance continue to increase year after year with housing serving as a top social service need requested over the last six years.
    • More than 1 in 4 referrals made by 211 specialists were related to housing.
  • Utility assistance referrals rose by over a million, from 1.7 million referrals for help in 2018 to 2.8 million in 2023.
    • Combined, 211 specialists made 8.1 million referrals for help related to housing or utilities, an increase of 34.1 percent of total requests made in 2018 to 42.3 percent in 2023.
  • Food assistance referrals have started to decrease, although they remain higher than pre-pandemic levels. 
    • In 2023, 211 specialists made 2.4 million referrals for help related to food and meals, and though national 211 requests for food assistance have decreased following a spike during 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, food assistance requests remain double what they were pre-pandemic. 
  • Mental health and substance abuse referrals have increased to their highest level since mid-pandemic in 2021, surpassing general health care requests. 
    • Compared to 2021, mental health and substance abuse referrals have increased by nearly 9 percent.

Additionally, post pandemic 211 contact volume remains elevated with 15.4 million requests in 2023 compared to 11 million in 2019.  The data reflects the lack of services available to adults and families in need in some areas. According to the survey, 211 leaders reported they are often not able to meet the needs of those requesting help because there are not resources available to address basic needs, such as housing, utilities, and transportation. Nearly 95 percent of 211 leaders reported unmet needs related to housing, 61.6 percent related to utilities, and 52.2 percent related to transportation. 

"People are facing significant challenges, particularly within underserved, underrepresented, and vulnerable communities," said Dr. Nicole Cooper, executive vice president and chief strategy and innovation officer at United Way Worldwide. “With the ending or reduction of vital COVID-19 safety-net programs in the past year, people are experiencing heightened burdens and are increasingly turning to 211 for support. This data shows us the need, now more than ever, to enhance capacity, reach, and efficacy of the 211 network.”

The 211 network is an important resource for community members that connects them to trained specialists offering help with crisis and emergency counseling, disaster assistance, food, health care and insurance, stable housing and utilities assistance, employment services, veteran services, and childcare and family services. With over 2,000 expert call center specialists, the free and confidential 211 network is available to assist 99% of the U.S. population - in more than 180 languages. The annual 211 Impact Survey plays a central role in understanding the evolving needs of individuals, families, and communities.

“Every call, text, or email to 211 is a moment of vulnerability, trust, and opportunity. The 211 network, and the specialists who give so much of their time to those who reach out for help, bridge gaps in our social support network, connecting individuals to the help they need most,” said Heather Black, vice president of 211 system strategy at United Way Worldwide. “This is more than a helpline; this is an entry point to a care and support system that strengthens the fabric of our communities.”

United Way Worldwide is committed to using the data and insights gleaned from the 2023 211 Impact Survey to enhance services, advocate for policy changes, and collaborate with community partners to address both ongoing and emerging needs effectively.

For more information, go to: Access to graphics:

* Requests are defined by the number of telephonic and non-telephonic (e.g., text, chat, emails) interactions to 211 for assistance. Referrals are defined by the number of times an individual is referred to a specific service during an interaction. 


About United Way Worldwide
United Way brings people together to build strong communities where everyone thrives. As one of the world's largest privately funded charities, we serve 95% of U.S. communities and 37 countries and territories, impacting more than 48 million people every year. Through United Way, communities tackle tough challenges and work with private, public, and nonprofit partners to boost education, economic solutions, and health resources. United Way is the mission of choice for 1.5 million volunteers, 6.8 million donors, and 45,000 corporate partners in thousands of communities worldwide in our second century of service. Together, we are building resilient, equitable communities across the globe. Learn more at and follow us via @UnitedWay and #LiveUnited.

About 211
211 is a 24/7 free, confidential service offered in 180 languages that connects individuals to resources and services in their local communities. Individuals in need or who are looking for information for someone else can call, text, email or web chat 211. United Way supports and helps provide 211 services in 99% of the communities across the U.S. and Canada. For more information about 211, visit