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Bridges, April 16, 2021

VACCINATING THE HOMELESS IN WASHINGTON, DC

Since starting work with Unity Health Care I’ve had the privilege of working at one of the isolation and quarantine hotels for those who either have COVID or need to quarantine due to exposure.

The vast majority of these patients are under-sheltered individuals coming from homeless shelters. They are often the forgotten ones of society with poor health outcomes and unmanaged mental illness. These hotels have been an opportunity to be able to engage them in their health care for the time they are with us, often connecting them to core services like mental health providers and starting to manage other chronic health illnesses. Additionally, the government has opened three hotels in the area for those at greatest risk for COVID-19 complications. We provide health care in these hotels and have had some really great health outcomes. The residents in these hotels are able to stay until they have permanent housing options while receiving health care, mental health and social work support. It is truly a positive outcome from the pandemic.

Another aspect of Unity's work during the pandemic has been vaccination campaigns. We have 4 health centers who provide vaccines to the community; with our outreach to minority populations we've been on the frontline helping target elderly and minority populations. Additionally a main focus of the vaccination campaign has been to vaccinate the homeless starting at first with vaccinating those in shelters with Moderna.

Now we're going to the tent encampments with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to reach as many homeless persons as possible. Of course there is a lot of mistrust of the vaccines and hesitancy requiring a lot of education and support.

These photos were taken at a tent encampment and show me with a shot recipient, a tent home, and a facemask sign outside of a tent home.

- Brittany Galvin

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