Vaccination plan launched for homeless

Photo Courtesy of County of Union
Union County Commissioners Sergio Granados and Lourdes M. Leon, along with Union County Department of Human Services Director Debbie-Ann Anderson and James Horne, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Greater Union County, visited a mobile vaccination site at the Salvation Army in Elizabeth on Saturday, March 20.

ELIZABETH, NJ — The Union County Board of County Commissioners has partnered the county’s Department of Human Services with United Way of Greater Union County in a COVID-19 vaccination outreach plan for the homeless. The county and the United Way of Greater Union County will coordinate the administration of vaccines to 400 homeless individuals at eight pop-up clinics in local communities this coming week.

Transportation to the sites will be available if needed, and after-care kits will be distributed to everyone vaccinated.

Vaccines are an important tool to protect people experiencing homelessness from COVID-19, but public health and homeless assistance systems face substantial barriers to reaching this group. Most of the homeless population is not generally well connected to the health care system and face substantial challenges accessing the vaccine.

“The Board of Commissioners is determined to ensure vaccine access for every Union County resident who wants to be protected against this lethal virus,” said Board of County Commissioners Chairperson Alexander Mirabella. “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank UWGUC and all of our partners for helping to ensure that life-saving vaccines can reach the most vulnerable and at-risk members of the Union County family as quickly as possible.”

“With little to no access to the internet or Wi-Fi services and facing many other daily challenges, it is nearly impossible for the homeless to apply for a vaccine appointment. This is our opportunity to go to them to make sure they have an opportunity to receive the vaccine,” said James Horne, chief executive officer, United Way of Greater Union County.

“Now, more than ever, it is important to commit to all of our residents during this unprecedented public health crisis. Every single resident including those who are homeless or undocumented should have the opportunity to be vaccinated as well,” said Union County Commissioner Sergio Granados, who serves as liaison to the Human Services Advisory Council. “Advocating for our at-risk community is a priority of mine and of the commissioner board, and we will continue to take the initiative and rise up to the challenge of overcoming this pandemic.”

“Thanks to the strong network of partner agencies in Union County, we are able to muster an all-hands-on-deck effort to connect with unsheltered residents in our community,” said Department of Human Services Director Debbie-Ann Anderson.
The Department of Human Services worked with the UWGUC to obtain the grant for the pop-up vaccine clinic program, which will fund professional vaccination staff through the Visiting Nurse Association. The Union County Department of Human Services is coordinating outreach with shelters and other partners, in order to ensure that their clients and other at-risk residents are aware of the vaccination opportunity.

Staff from the Department of Human Services will also assist at the clinics.
In addition to the commissioner board, the Department of Human Services, UWGUC and the Visiting Nurse Association, other partners in the program include Angels for Action, Bridgeway Rehabilitation Services, the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, St. Joseph Social Service Center, Family Promise, the Gateway Family YMCA, HomeFirst, Muslim Community Soup Kitchen, Mount Olive Baptist Church, Plainfield Action Services, the Salvation Army, YWCA of Eastern Union County and Cristo Para La Naciones.