People Experiencing Homelessness Now Eligible to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

'People experiencing homelessness matter too and it’s important to have the vaccine available for people in a congregate setting'

Starting Monday, people experiencing homelessness are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We came into this season very concerned about this setting,” says Mike McDonald, chairperson at Safe Harbor in Traverse City.

The Goodwill Inn and Safe Harbor in Traverse City have been working hard to implement protective measures within their shelters, like putting up plastic coverings around the beds and shields in dining rooms.

However, they still fear the risk of community spread.

“Although we’ve taken a lot of precautions trying to keep people a part, it’s not perfect, and there’s much greater risk of exposure than let’s say you would have in your own home, here,” says McDonald.

That’s why Ryan Hannon with the Goodwill Inn northern Michigan says he’s excited that people experiencing homeless are finally able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We know that people in other congregate settings like nursing homes and things like that have access the vaccine already so it’s really nice that it’s available for people who are homeless too,” says Hannon.

The two shelters are working with the Traverse Health Clinic to spread awareness about the vaccine.

Roger Gerstle, chief clinical officer at the Traverse Health Clinic, says, “They are so vulnerable to begin with, they are out mixing with people when there on the streets or in the library, just wherever, so it’s really important that they’re protected for themselves and for the public as well.”

So far, the Traverse Health Clinic has 100 doses of the vaccine to give out. Guests can sign up at safe harbor or goodwill to get it.

McDonald says, “We have seen quite a bit of interest on those who are experiencing homelessness.”

The two shelters hope this will provide comfort to guests, volunteers and staff during this difficult time.

Hannon says, “People experiencing homelessness matter too, and it’s important to have the vaccine available for people in a congregate setting.”

Safe Harbor will have their first vaccine clinic Tuesday. Goodwill Inn will have theirs on Wednesday.