We’ve received hundreds of reader requests, both on this site and on our social media pages. Have you ever wondered what happens when you request information from Low Income Relief?
I’d love to tell you that a team of experts immediately gets to work investigating your problem or need… and someday, I’m sure that will be true!
However, the current request process is a little less glorious than that.
When you request information from us (whether it’s on our website, our social media pages or through other means), the request is immediately logged on our Reader Request List. This list is completely confidential and is only seen by one person. That’s me, Nicole, the owner and lead researcher at Low Income Relief.
Our list currently has nearly 80 unfinished requests in it (as of September 12, 2017). I assign some of the titles to the team of freelance writers who assist me. Most of them I complete myself, due to budget and time constraints.
So how do I find this information?
Some requests, like library resources and power company savings, are easy to find. I comb through the company or library’s website, read every page and scour their websites for the information you need. I read bill inserts, rate tables and all the details to find information that may benefit you.
Other requests are more complicated. When you’re searching for local help with food, rent, clothing, school supplies, Christmas items or other needs, there’s a whole different process.
For local need requests, I typically spend about several hours searching for resources on the United Way 211 directories and through extensive Google searches. I also contact local agencies directly to clarify information and seek referrals to other agencies that may not be easy to find online.
So why am I telling you all this?
I *love* helping and serving all of you here at Low Income Relief… but I feel awful when I have so many outstanding requests and I can’t catch up. I know some of you can’t wait to get the information you need… so I wanted to let you know how you can get the information yourself.
Step 1: Check 211
Have you heard about 211? In areas that are covered by the United Way’s 211 service, you can look up resources online or by calling 211.
I typically use the online map directories. Some even offer chat support, so you can simply ask for the resources you need in your area.
However, I’ve found the best success by searching the maps manually myself. Some of these maps are not very well designed at all. For some maps, you have to search by zip code… which, when I’m researching for a specific city, can mean 20-30 different searches for each and every zip code in that city!
Step 2: Google… a lot.
The United Way maps are a great place to start but they can be difficult to use. In some cases, the information is incomplete or out-of-date.
I spend a lot of time on Google. I do dozens of searches for each request, varying my search terms and techniques.
There are some great search techniques you can use to help you find information faster and more efficiently on Google. Although you can always use the Advanced Search tool to do the same thing, I’ve found that these techniques can make the searches must faster.
Search an exact phrase.
Search for an exact phrase by putting the word or phrase in quotes. Search for free school supplies will return anything that includes any of those words.
Searching for “free school supplies” will only return links that include those exact words, together, in that order. Using quotation marks can make the search much more effective!
Exclude words from your search.
If you keep seeing something irrelevant in your search results, you can exclude it. Just put a – in front of the word you want to exclude. Don’t put a space between!
For example, if you aren’t homeless, you could add -homeless to your search to eliminate results that are directed toward homeless families.
Use OR to search two things at once.
You can say free school supplies OR backpack giveaway to see results for either phrase.
Step 3: Reach out to local agencies for information and referrals.
I want to make sure that every piece of information we publish here at Low Income Relief is factual, verifiable and accurate. Whenever I have questions, I reach out to individual agencies to confirm my facts.
I’ve also found that reaching out to agencies can be very helpful. Some resources just aren’t easy to find online. When I can’t find very many resources in an area, I’ll message the local Salvation Army, United Way, Catholic Charities and other major organizations to see if they know of something I’ve missed.
Step 4: I share that information with you!
Once I’m confident that I’ve found all the resources in your area and everything is accurate, I publish that information and send you the link. By publishing it on the site, I ensure that the information is readily available to anyone who may need it in the future.
Of course, I’m always happy to help you with your requests!
I am not sharing this information with you because I don’t want to help! I am always happy to fill your requests. I just wanted to let you know how you can do this yourself, just in case you have an urgent need and can’t wait for me to get that information to you.
If you’d like us to look into something for you, just leave a comment below or send us a message!