LANSING, Mich. — The homeless population in Michigan will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines starting Monday.
The City Rescue Mission of Lansing expects to start offering vaccinations by Friday.
“We’ve been working really close with the Ingham County Health Department since early December," said Mark Criss, executive director of the City Rescue Mission. "Our processes next week, we’re looking at scheduling the health department to come out and help with our homeless guests. So, prior to this, we’ve had staff get vaccine shots so now it’s time for our guests to be able to get vaccine shots.”
Criss said that, on average, they have about 150 guests per night, and in the past year less than 1 percent of their guests tested positive for COVID-19.
“Every week the health department has been at the City Rescue Mission men’s shelter, as well as women and children’s shelter, as well as our outreach, to do testing. And so we have been testing our guests as well as staff, actually, once a week pretty much since the beginning of December. So they pretty much have that process down pat, and we’ll use that same process for vaccinating people,” Criss added.
Asked whether or not the people they serve would be willing to get the vaccine, Criss said, “I’m guessing between 50 and 75 percent. I know that’s a wide-range, but it depends on who you talk to quite honestly. So, we’re making it available, we’re really encouraging those who are older to get the vaccine.”
Criss said he believes they will be supplied with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which is helpful as it only requires one does, and a lot of his guests are transient.
Levi Brandt, 18, has been homeless for one month, and he said that he is absolutely interested in getting the vaccine.
“Then I wouldn’t have to worry about getting sick anymore. Because, you know, being in and out of stores, I can’t really store a lot of food on me. I just got this small bag, so,” Brandt said.
Laura LeBlanc, vice president of development and communications for Volunteers of America, said they are focused on making sure the veteran homeless population has access to the vaccines.
“What we’re noticing with our homeless veterans in general is that as long as they have the access to the information surrounding the safety of the vaccine, and the most recent studies – they want access to it," she said. "As they work to get on the sign-up list, that can be kind of confusing with the way that the process is working so we just work with them to make sure, 'This is exactly who you need to call. This is how you’ll get access to it, make sure you get on the list. They’ll call you to get your appointment set up'…Anything that we can do to remove the burden and make sure they feel safe, that’s what we’re trying to do."
LeBlanc says she recommends that every veteran contact the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to get on their vaccination list, but to not stop there if told they're not eligible.
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