Unity Health Care's (Unity) Healthcare for the Homeless team, in partnership with DC’s Department of Human Services, took a lead in advocating to prioritize the COVID-19 vaccine for people experiencing homelessness. Through this effort, the Healthcare for Homeless team has vaccinated more than 1200 individuals experiencing homelessness and the front-line staff who serve them with the first dose of the Moderna vaccine. During the first week in March, the Homeless Outreach team administered second-round doses to the 1200 initial vaccine recipients, fully vaccinating them against the virus. In collaboration with the Department of Human Services, Unity clinical staff also hosted town hall meetings to educate this vulnerable community about COVID-19 and the importance of vaccination.
“Prioritizing vaccination for those experiencing homelessness who are at such high risk for the spread of the COVID-19 virus due to their living circumstances, is not only the moral course of action, it is the smart course of action,” said Dr. Anne Cardile, Medical Director of CCNV and Healthcare for the Homeless. “This pandemic reminds us that the protection provided by a home - a stable place to live, where you can close the door, adequately address hygiene, and determine who you let enter- is not only needed for social well-being, it is foundational for health. In other words, this pandemic reminds us again that "housing is healthcare."
“Many persons experiencing homelessness, because of their chronic illnesses, are at great risk for becoming ill with COVID-19,” said Vincent A. Keane, Unity Health Care, President and CEO. “Unity staff have been privileged to serve the residents of the PEP-V and ISAQ facilities, as well as shelters, and those living on the streets. Consistent with Unity’s long mission of serving homeless families and individuals, Unity staff have made a profound difference in improving their health and welfare.”
Unity is working with DC Department of Human Services to turn attention to vaccinating smaller facilities working with individuals experiencing homelessness and encampment sites.