Whatcom County residents needed help paying their home heating or utilities bills in the past year. Others asked for help in getting dental care and emergency shelter.
Those were among the needs on the rise in 2012 - compared to the previous year - from people who called North Sound 2-1-1, according to Bill Brackin, its program director. The statistics go through November.
Based in Everett, North Sound 2-1-1 is part of a statewide network of regional centers that field questions from callers who dial 211 to ask for help with an array of needs, including health and social services.
North Sound 2-1-1 serves callers living in Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Skagit and Snohomish counties. Calls are free.
Brackin said more than 1,800 Whatcom County residents are calling for help each year.
Below is a list of the needs that were on the rise in 2012, and the percent of callers who asked for them.
Home heating/utilities assistance, 23.7 percent. Requests for home heating help have been "going through the roof," Brackin said.
Emergency shelter, 5.9 percent.
Low-cost rental or subsidized housing, 4.1 percent.
Food, 3.2 percent
Dental care, 2.9 percent. "That's pretty much throughout the region. It's not only Whatcom County that's experiencing this," Brackin said of the dental care requests.
Other needs and the percent of callers asking for them include:
Legal aid, 5.6 percent, which is down slightly from 2011.
Requests for legal help are higher than they were pre-recession, Brackin said, adding that many have been requests for help with bankruptcies, mortgage closures and credit problems.
Those requests were highest in 2011 with nearly 6.3 percent. This year's rate so far equals that of 2008.
Rent and mortgage assistance, 12.5 percent. This rate has been similar over a number of years, Brackin said.
There are signs that the economy is getting better, because calls for some types of assistance have leveled off, such as in the case of rent or mortgage assistance, or decreased slightly, Brackin said.
"It does appear that in some ways we are starting to see the end of recession. It's starting to finally affect the low-income population," he said.
Additonal information on North Sound 2-1-1 and aid statistics for Whatcom County are online at voaww.org/211.
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