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Posts Tagged ‘Public Health’

National Coalition for the Homeless Statement on Vaccinating People who are Unhoused

Written by Brian Davis on . Posted in Blog

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday February 28, 2021, to discuss the third vaccine approved for emergency use against the spread of the COVID-19. He provided the grim reality of this highly infectious and dangerously adaptable virus, and he urged Americans to take whichever vaccine becomes available to them when they become eligible.

The National Coalition for the Homeless supports experts like Dr. Fauci and the health care professionals at the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) who are recommending that all those experiencing homelessness and those serving homeless people take whichever vaccine is available as soon as possible. COVID-19 has decimated fragile populations in the United States especially members of minority populations such as African Americans, Latinx, and Native Americans.  Any level of protection against this killer is going to be essential to protect the homeless community. 

NCH Executive Director, Donald Whitehead, receiving his first COVID vaccine dose.

To that end most of our staff are people with previous experience with homelessness, many either have been, or are in line to be immunized against the coronavirus. We trust the scientists and hundreds of thousands of hours of research, oversight and testing that went into developing these vaccines. It is not worth the risk waiting for the one shot from Johnson and Johnson. We urge our friends who we serve every single day to get the first shot offered. We implore that all those working in the shelters and social service networks in the United States seek out the first vaccine available to them. We need everyone to get the vaccine as soon as possible so that we can return to finding solutions to all the other barriers facing the population.  We need you to be healthy and capable of receiving that key to the front door of a brand new apartment when it is ready for you.  

In the words of our friends at the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council (NHCHC), experts who have the trust of the homeless community,

COVID-19 vaccines are an essential part of ending this pandemic, but there are many challenges to ensuring successful and equitable vaccination campaigns. A number of key factors will influence the success of these campaigns for people experiencing homelessness and the providers who serve them. Health centers and homeless service providers should be taking action steps now to create an intentional operations plan, an effective communication and engagement strategy, and broad community partnerships to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available to everyone.

Click here for more information from the NHCHC. There is an easy to use dashboard and local resources available to local doctors and health care professionals.

Please do your part to keep our community safe: get the vaccine as soon as you can!

Action Alert: Every State Needs to Vaccinate People who are Homeless

Written by Brian Davis on . Posted in Action Alert

As we enter (hopefully) the final phase of the COVID pandemic with vaccinations, it is unclear in many states if there is a plan to inoculate every resident of the state facing a housing emergency. 

California has the nation’s largest homeless population and has yet to clearly define their plan to distribute the vaccine to the hundreds of thousand people experiencing homelessness, or frontline homeless services workers. The is not just an issue of reaching folks who are homeless. The narrow Federal definition of homelessness prevents many from being clearly defined as vulnerable.

The National Coalition for the Homeless is asking the California Department of Public Health to prioritize vaccinations for all those without a stable place to live, those living outside or in a shelter, and those who work in service to these folks.

While the statewide plan issued by the Department of Public Health makes some mention of homelessness, direction on how to vaccinate all people who do not have permanent housing is vague. There are huge numbers of people sleeping outside in California and no real plan to reach this difficult to serve population. In addition, it is unclear if those who were recently relocated into housing meet the definition of homeless. We are asking for California officials to provide a clear plan that local communities can implement that takes into account the diverse needs of all of those experiencing homelessness.  

Very few states, in fact, have published comprehensive plans to get COVID vaccines to the entire population of people who are unhoused.  We are urging our advocacy network throughout the United States to reach out to their state health departments to ask if there are detailed plans to vaccinate homeless people. We hope that the media begin to ask these questions as well.  We would ask that these plans be published on the state health department websites so that they can be implemented on the local level.  

The National Coalition for the Homeless is hearing mixed messages from social service providers and there is a great deal of confusion in the field about the vaccination program and how homeless people fit into the plans. Now, as the country prepares to vaccinate the population, in most states there is no sign yet that homeless people, those who serve homeless people, are a priority to access to the vaccine. 

TAKE ACTION

For those in California: Contact Dr. Tomás Aragón, the State Director of Public Health, at 516-553-1784. Tag @CApublicHealth in a tweet with the hashtag #VaccinateHomeless, or drop them a note on Facebook @capublichealth. “Please clarify when all homeless people, homeless and hunger social service providers (including those serving homeless people in permanent housing programs), throughout the state will be vaccinated.”

For those outside of California, please contact your state health department with a similar message to be made public.  

Remembering the Unique Needs of Homeless People During the Pandemic

Written by Brian Davis on . Posted in Blog

Sean Cononie of COSAC Foundation and the Homeless Voice newspaper wants communities throughout the United States to not forget about people experiencing homelessness in the face of the COVID-related tragedy around us. He is especially concerned that there is no strategy for the distribution of vaccinations within the homeless community among community leaders.

The population of people experiencing homelessness is diverse and may need different strategies to best serve their individual needs. For example, two dose vaccines pose a challenge for people who live unsheltered on the streets in cars or encampments, as they often are forced to move and therefore cannot always be found by outreach workers, and therefore might never receive the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. Cononie is encouraging communities to wait a couple of weeks and use the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine when it is approved for use. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be administered in just one dose, plus, it is easier to transport to those on the streets, and does not require the extreme cold storage that the other two vaccines require.  (Please note, NCH encourages all to access whatever vaccine is available to them.)

Picture of Sean Cononie
Sean Cononie

Cononie has worked on the streets for decades in South Florida and currently travels the streets of Broward County assisting those largely forgotten by the rest of society.  He has set up a firehouse model of emergency responders who go out on the street around the clock to provide personal protective gear, masks, water, and COVID tests. He can help house individuals if they are interested and can work to quarantine individuals who are recovering. 

Unfortunately, Cononie, a board member of the National Coalition for the Homeless, reports that the response in South Florida to the pandemic has been scatter shot at best.  He has seen mistreatment of those experiencing homelessness at some of the local hospital emergency rooms, and Cononie said some of the hospitals have given up on serving homeless people altogether.  Many people who are homeless report that hospitals will just give them a blanket, some food and then send them on their way saying, “Come back if it gets worse.”

Some cities have been successful in housing vulnerable and quarantined unhoused folks in hotel rooms, or other temporary housing. Cononie believes that his local health care system needs to find safe accommodation for those without housing to recuperate even if their symptoms are mild.  The risk of them passing the virus to a large number of people at meal programs or shelters is significant and has deadly consequences for the fragile population served by the homeless continuum.

In South Florida, as in many communities, systems have either forgotten the population or have set up bureaucracies that make it impossible for those without an address to participate in programs that would keep them safe. The religious community has stepped up to help with meals and other basics, but the need is continually increasing as the pandemic has worn on. Broward County has a relatively high unemployment rate of 7.3%, and 14.6% of the Southern Florida population do not have health insurance, both of which can lead to increases in homelessness. Cononie is committed to bringing resources to people often forgotten to get them through this global health crisis.

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