Religious leaders working to vaccinate homeless for COVID-19 one shot at a time

Posted at 1:53 PM, Mar 15, 2021

For some people living on the streets, there’s skepticism about getting the COVID-19 vaccination.

“Some people don’t care, or they really don’t believe in the virus,” said Paris Avila while standing outside a homeless encampment in Denver, Colorado. "A lot of people believe in hoaxes and government and stuff like that. A lot of people think it's control to kill people off."

Now, some religious leaders are working to change that by opening the doors to their places of worship and turning them into vaccination sites.

“A church that has faith without works is dead," said Ken Brown, a senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Denver, Colorado. “We believe we have an opportunity to give life to our neighbors."

Brown recently teamed up with a homeless shelter and state health officials to create a COVID-19 vaccination clinic, with an emphasis on vaccinating the homeless.

“We’re incredibly excited that we have this pop-up clinic opportunity to vaccinate at least 500 people and 200 of those spots are folks that live without shelter,” Brown said.

Health experts say vaccinating the homeless is beneficial to even those not living on the streets.

“We have to protect so many more people than what we might think,” said Sheryl Zajdowicz, Ph.D., an infectious disease specialist with MSU Denver. “It’s not just about going to work or school its everyone in the community. “It’s everyone in the community that’s going to protect the whole."

Zajdowicz says vaccinating members of the homeless community will help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Getting people to actually get vaccinated, however, does come with some challenges.

“When you don’t have that secure housing situation, it’s just hard to track,” Zajdowicz said. “And then to also, particularly, if it’s that two-dose vaccination, getting to that second dose.”

For many in the homeless community, getting the first dose is a challenge.

“Some of these people that won’t go, I just don’t understand it,” said Rebecca Rowland, a homeless woman who did get vaccinated.

She says many people living on the street won’t get vaccinated, something she hopes to see change.

“There are things out there, but you have to search them out,” Rowland said. “Let’s put an end to this.”