PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Requests to the United Way of Rhode Island’s 211 call center to help fulfill basic needs increased in 2019 compared to 2018, the agency reported.

The agency released a report of its data on Feb. 11, known as “National 211 Day,” designed to raise awareness of the public service.

Of the 170,860 calls that came into the Rhode Island 211 center in 2019, requests related to housing were up 17% over the previous year, and requests for help with food increased by 7,258 cases from the previous year.

Health care and services had the largest increase year-to-year with 54,957 in 2018, to 94,813 in 2019. While some of the increase was due to more people asking for help enrolling in Medicare, the agency’s specialists also received more calls for help with prescriptions, elder care and mental health support.

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The 211 nationwide hotline connects people in the United States to essential community services in their region, from the elderly to the disabled, people who don’t speak English, people in crisis and more.

The report reflects public feedback, according to United Way R.I. President and CEO Cortney Nicolato.

“People are struggling with their basic needs,” she said, adding that some of the increases were alarming. “We have a housing crisis in our state that impacts nearly every aspect of our neighbors’ lives, our economy, and overall well-being.”

“Without significant change, the data points will only rise,” she added.

The 211 service in Rhode Island also offers online anonymous chat services and in-person services through an outreach program served by a mobile van.