Saturday, December 16, 2017
Public safety

211 hotline says: 'Always somewhere to turn' for people, families in crisis

When Vicki Hummer heard of the Brown family's tragedy, it felt personal.

She works at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, home to the Hillsborough County 211 crisis hotline and a number of services for people and families dealing with emotional or financial strain.

Although Dawn Brown and her two children lived in Pinellas County, there are similar services there, and yet the family fell through the cracks. Brown and her husband faced foreclosure, their power had been turned off and Brown had been charged with welfare fraud. Authorities say Dawn Brown killed her sons and then herself late Friday.

"We really hope we can catch all those people that are in great need as this family was," said Hummer, director of trauma informed care at the Crisis Center.

The agency is among many offering help throughout the Tampa Bay area.

The first step in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco or Hernando counties, officials said: dial 211.

Crisis specialists will answer and put the caller in touch with local resources to assist them in their time of need.

"We are the connection between the person in need and the agency that can help them," said Angela Pelegrini, a manager at 2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares, in charge of the hotline for Pinellas and Hernando counties.

Every year, Pelegrini said, 2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares helps more than 100,000 people. In Hillsborough, about 180,000 people make contact with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

Calls are confidential, and the hotline is available 24 hours.

Services offered at the Crisis Center include the family stability program, which helps families with budgeting and puts them in touch with other resources, like obtaining money for basic needs, including utility bills.

"The goal is really to keep them from cycling back into financial crisis," Hummer said.

The Suncoast Center, with locations in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Pinellas Park, puts families in touch with specialists who visit their homes for counseling. They help families set and reach goals, said Angeline Howell, director of clinical services at Suncoast. She wants families in crisis to know there are places to get help.

"If they just feel like they don't have anywhere to turn," she said, "there's always somewhere to turn."

Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727)893-8713, or [email protected]

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