United Way and University of Pittsburgh Partnership Enhances Regional Database Highlighting Community Needs

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United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and University of Pittsburgh collaborated to add PA 211 Southwest data to the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC) open data portal in an effort to provide a better understanding about community needs in the region.

The WPRDC was created in 2015 and is managed by the Pitt Center for Urban and Social Research, in partnership with Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh. This new partnership adds the latest information from United Way’s 211 Counts dashboard directly to the WPRDC open data portal every day. The addition of 211’s data to the data already shared by the county’s 911 and city’s 311 systems provides a more comprehensive look at requests for services in the region.

“United Way's PA 211 Southwest’s partnership with WPRDC enhances their trusted database and provides an even greater centralized resource for information about the region," said Michele Sandoe, senior director of United Way's PA 211 Southwest. "Through this transparent sharing of up-to-date information, we are helping people find and use information to help their communities."

Over the last 10 years, United Way’s PA 211 Southwest has answered 1,102,843 requests for help (650,887 requests via call or text and 451,956 inquiries online). The top three needs across the region are consistently related to housing, utility assistance and access to food.

“Sharing the 211 data as open data enables people to start to look at service demand in context with other information. For example, people can now make a map of requests for food assistance by ZIP code and overlay that with information on grocery stores and food bank locations without first having to transcribe or scrape the data from the 211 dashboard,” said Robert Gradeck, project director for the WPRDC. “This is also a great opportunity for us to use highly relevant community level data in our efforts to build data literacy, and gives students and researchers another important dataset for research and teaching.”

If you or someone you know in the region needs help financially or with basic needs, contact PA 211 Southwest by dialing 2-1-1, texting your zip code to 898-211, visiting the PA 211 website, or accessing the web app.