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Calls for help with fuel, utility bills, and substance abuse rise dramatically in New Hampshire

More Granite Staters are calling the free help line this year for assistance with fuel, utility bills, and substance use.

Virginia Patnaude shops for food at the Gather Pantry Market in Portsmouth, N.H.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

In New Hampshire, there’s a simple phone number you can call if you need help: 211.

There has been a surge in calls for help this year,, according to Granite United Way, the nonprofit that operates the phone line.

Calls for help with fuel assistance rose 78 percent this August compared to last August, according to William Sherry, who works on public policy and advocacy for the organization. Last August, the organization received 98 calls, while in August of 2023 there were 174 calls , according to data from Granite United Way.

Calls about The Doorway, the state-run referral system for those struggling with substance use including drugs and alcohol, were up 20 percent in the same timeframe, he said.


Sherry said data collected by the Granite United Way shows that more people are calling for help with electric and utility bills, in addition to other costs related to housing. Data from the organization shows a 32 percent increase in calls about electric bills, a 41 percent increase in calls about low cost housing, and an 18 percent increase in calls related to homelessness.

Calls about food security went up 47 percent.

“What’s driving it? Inflation, uncertainty, all of those things together,” Sherry said during a roundtable hosted by Senator Jeanne Shaheen on Monday to gather information about the impact of a potential federal government shutdown on nonprofits in New Hampshire.

“Prices are up,” he said in an interview with the Globe after the event. “Utility rates are up, rents are up, cost of food is up. So all of those same pressures are impacting someone’s budget, and that’s driving calls for help.”

Sherry shared the data to underscore that New Hampshire residents are already reaching out for help in elevated numbers before the added economic impact of a potential federal government shutdown.


“These are calls and emails and everything that are coming in all the time from citizens of New Hampshire looking for help,” he said in an interview after the event. Granite United Way launched its 211 number in New Hampshire in 2007, according to its website, which bills the free service as the “first statewide, comprehensive, information and referral service.”

There’s also been a gradual rise in food insecurity in the state since pandemic-era food assistance programs ended earlier this year, according to Laura Milliken, executive director of New Hampshire Hunger Solutions.

Around 44 percent of adults in New Hampshire and over half of the state’s children were in households that reported insufficient food, according to the Sept. 7 data from the census pulse survey.

The New Hampshire Food Bank has expanded its mobile pantries in the wake of the pandemic in an attempt to meet the need, according to Executive Director Eileen Liponis.

Before COVID there were between six to 10 targeted mobile food pantries per year, serving a maximum of 250 people, she said. After COVID hit, they increased to three per week, which they’ve since reduced to around one mobile market per week that serves about 400 families.

New Hampshire nonprofits attending the roundtable said they are in a bad position to weather a period without federal money in part because state agencies have been slow to get federal funding out the door.

“We’ve been experiencing some of the same things with the state, with having a lot of money outstanding from the state for various things and different programs,” said Claire Gagnon, chief financial officer of Easter Seals New Hampshire. “It’s from federal funds that are flowing through the state, but I think we’re all feeling the cash crunch because of that.”


Amanda Gokee can be reached at Follow her @amanda_gokee.