By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
On average, IMPACT 211, the nonprofit resource center for those in need, receives about 500 calls a day, but in the past few weeks under quarantine those numbers have skyrocketed.
John Hyatt, the president and CEO of IMPACT, estimated that under the current circumstances the center receives 1,500 calls a day.
IMPACT serves the vulnerable population in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Ozaukee, Washington, Dodge, Jefferson and Walworth counties. Those in need can be connected to essential services including food pantries, housing resources, mental health care and more simply by calling or texting 2-1-1.
IMPACT, like the majority of organizations throughout the country, were forced to adjust after the stay at home order forced many workers to work from home. Hyatt noted that IMPACT had tried having its employees work remotely a few months prior to the shutdown. While IMPACT was up and running within 10 days, Hyatt said the shift from an office to the home is easier said than done.
When someone connects with 2-1-1, the person on the other end of the line is not just listening to that person but entering information and finding the best way to help out. IMPACT employees are accustomed to working with two monitors and the lack of equipment has created a hindrance.
Hyatt added that callers are often “emotionally high jacked” and that dealing with the high volume of callers has been emotionally taxing on some employees.
“The curve might be flattening but the panic, fear and anxiety of callers is not,” he said. “We always try to be the calm, caring and reassuring voice on the end of the line.”
But lately, things have started to look up. IMPACT recently received a grant totaling $100,000 from Bader Philanthropies.
According to the press release, Bader Philanthropies has provided funding for 35 local organizations including Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, Imagine MKE, Sojourner Foundation and many more.
“It really was and still is amazing how the community pulled together,” Hyatt said.
Through the grant, IMPACT has been able to hire several employees and is looking to purchase additional equipment. IMPACT is also working with other organizations such as United Way and Team Rubicon to train additional volunteers and respond to the critical needs of the community. Last month, it partnered with Lyft to provide rides to those in need.
Hyatt said the call data shows that the majority of calls continue to come from the underserved and low-income communities.
“We’re all in this together, but we’re not all in this together equally,” he said, explaining that data shows callers are in search of basic needs.
Food is at the top of the list, Hyatt said, noting that the number of calls for those seeking mental health care has also risen.
While the IMPACT team is working hard to do all it can right now, Hyatt is also looking ahead at what is to come.
The quarantine will leave many traumatized, Hyatt noted, adding, “Once you’ve been traumatized you never go back.”
“We still don’t know when the end is in sight, this is still the storm, it’s not settled down yet,” he said.
He hopes that people continue to reach out if they are in need, but he also hopes people have a better understanding of what it is like to be in a vulnerable situation. Hyatt said that he hopes people have more patience and are more tolerant, and that that mindset becomes the new normal.