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Crisis Call 211 Puts Camera on Plight of the Poor, Former Middle Class

Image from Crisis Call 211.

The Gantz brothers have a passion for bringing gritty, moving and often provocative documentaries to the small screen.

Joe and Harry Gantz produced HBO’s Emmy Award-winning series “Taxicab Confessions” and Showtime’s “Sexual Healing,” a sex therapy show featuring National Association of Social Workers member Laura Berman, DSW.

Now the Cincinnati natives are raising funds for their next project, “Crisis Call 211.” The documentary, which they hope to release before the 2012 elections, will turn the camera on Portland, Ore. residents who call the 211 line to get a variety of social services, including emergency shelter, groceries from food banks, help paying utilities, or medical or mental healthcare.

Officials at the Portland 211 line said some social workers with bachelors degrees answer calls while they have hired social workers with masters degrees to supervise the call lines.

With the United States still in the grip of the Great Recession demand for these services is growing although states and the federal government are cutting the budget for such programs. The Gantz brothers hope their film will put a spotlight this dilemma.

“There hasn’t been that much that shows the plight of the poor and the formerly middle class that are struggling so much these days to survive,” said Joe, 56. “That is what we are trying to do.”

Harry (left) and Joe Gantz. Photo courtesy of

Social workers “are already on the front lines trying to do more with less,” Harry, 53, said. “Part of it will be highlighting their frustrations with having to serve millions more people but with billions of dollars less.”

The United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta originally launched 211 service in 1997. About 260 million Americans, or 86 percent of the U.S. population, had access to 211 calling centers as of October 2011, according to United Way and the Alliance for Information and Referral Systems. United Way continues to run many local 211 services, which can also get support through state or federal funding or other nonprofit organizations.

The Gantz brothers want social workers to help raise funding for their film and also do local screenings once the documentary is complete. To learn more and to watch a trailer of the film click here. You can also follow them on Facebook by clicking here.

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  1. This is a great article. There is one inaccuracy, however: while 2-1-1 is the federally designated number to call for community information and referral service, 2-1-1s do not receive federal funding, and only some of them receive state funding.

    Before she left the Senate, Hillary Clinton (D-NY), with support from co-sponsor Richard Burr (R-NC), introduced bi-partisan legislation named the Calling 211 Act that would provide Federal funding for 2-1-1 and encourage support of 2-1-1 nationwide. Sen. Patty Murry (D-WA) has since taken the leadership role for the Democrats in the Senate.

    In House, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) are the lead sponsors of the Calling for 2-1-1 Act.

  2. They ruined these families lives in Portland. They are crooks. Portland is worse off for poor due to them. My landlord kicked me out due to this documentary. My daughter and I were used and thrown away.

  3. 211 fed poor families to these vultures that thrive on licking the tears from the faces of family in torment poverty and crisis. I would like to sue them for allowing the Gantz to ruin hope and possible stability. Shame on the system and the Gantz. They even used my family to jeep us homeless.

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