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There is so much that the homeless services field has learned and accomplished over the past two years. And one of the essential lessons is the importance of attending to the intersection of health and homelessness. As we envision a return to something closer to normalcy, it is critical that we continue to integrate an equity-based public health lens within our efforts to end homelessness (among other changes!).
Continuing Focus on Vaccinations and Precautions for High-Risk Groups
While COVID-19 cases may be declining overall, the virus will remain present and deadly to many of the people that we serve in our programs. The field should continue to maintain a strong focus on keeping people safe from acquiring or transmitting COVID19, and getting vaccinations and boosters delivered, especially due to disproportionate risk many people in homeless service programs face.
Very early in the pandemic, public health researchers were able to point to the disparate toll COVID-19 was having on people of color. Yet the rollout of vaccinations has not happened equitably. There is still a lot more to do to make sure that all people, particularly those highly vulnerable to severe consequences of COVID-19, are vaccinated. It is not only the right thing for their own safety, but for the people they reside with and the people who serve them. And we have to make sure that this is achieved equitably.
Some anecdotal reports indicate that vaccination rates among people experiencing homelessness lagged behind the larger population – despite people experiencing homelessness having higher risk factors. There are efforts being made to “catch up;” we need to make sure those efforts don’t wane as relief of declining numbers sets in with the larger narrative. Last year, both DC and Los Angeles hired peer ambassadors to help increase vaccination rates. We must continue to test and elevate such innovative and pragmatic efforts to maintain progress in keeping people safe.
Read the full article about maintaining momentum by Sharon McDonald at National Alliance to End Homelessness.