Katerina, a 61 year-old Waikiki resident called AUW’s 211 Helpline in a panic. “I received a letter that I needed to update my SNAP information otherwise benefits would stop. I asked a friend to help me with the computer because I don’t know how to do that stuff.” SNAP, otherwise known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a lifeline for many households and kūpuna like Katerina, in particular. Since the pandemic hit, Katerina’s hours cleaning vacation rentals have been cut to almost nothing. “There have been so many cancellations, I’m just not working enough hours,” she said. SNAP benefits make a difference in how much she has to eat each month. “I’ve been calling the office for almost two weeks without any answer and I don’t know if I submitted anything correctly. I’ve called, left messages and emailed. The voicemail is full and I’m scared of losing benefits,” Katerina explained.
Calls for food assistance are among the most common and the AUW 211 Helpline tracks trends in a near real-time dashboard to identify when additional help is needed. The AUW 211 Specialist helped Katerina connect with food pantries and gave her contact information for Helping Hands Hawaii’s SNAP Outreach, a program designed to assist with applications and questions. “I know there are a lot of people in need and I’m trying to be patient, but I can’t tell you how grateful I am for 211 and for ‘Princess Leia’ the nice woman who helped me from 211.”
There are more than 4,000 programs in the 211 database, but if you don’t feel like sorting through it all, the best thing to do is call, text or chat. AUW’s 211 Specialists are exactly that, specialists. Through a few simple questions and some candid answers, you can get exactly what you need and sometimes more. 211 offers more than food, shelter, or assistance after a disaster - the service connects local people with thousands of community resources that would otherwise be difficult to locate.