cohealth is playing a key role in bringing the COVID-19 vaccine to people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage across Melbourne’s north and west.
People without a secure home are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 and have the greatest barriers to accessing the vaccine. This new initiative, funded by the Victorian Government, brings the vaccine to them.
The mobile vaccination clinic began operating on 22 July, and can vaccinate 40 people per day. The vaccination team includes two nurse immunisers, a social worker, a clerical services officer and a peer worker who has a lived experience of homelessness. Together, they are popping up at places including homelessness services, drop-in centres, crisis accommodation facilities and rooming houses.
Simon, Bobby and Hussein took this opportunity to get vaccinated. Read their stories.
Simon, 45, has experienced homelessness on and off throughout his life, including time sleeping rough. He’s been living in a rooming house in Melbourne’s outer suburbs with 10 other people, but he’s hoping to get into social housing so he can start a fresh life. Simon had seen the long lines of people waiting to be vaccinated at the Exhibition Buildings, but wasn’t sure if he was eligible, and felt anxious about lining up for hours with strangers. Simon loves playing footy and joined the cohealth Kangas, a footy team for people experiencing disadvantage that helps connect players with health and social supports. His coach, who is also a social worker, told him he could get vaccinated at cohealth’s homelessness service in the CBD. It’s a place he feels comfortable and welcome, as he goes there to access other services throughout the year. “”I decided to get vaccinated just to be safe,” he says.
Bobby has been sleeping rough in Abbotsford for more than 5 years. She has a pet cat that goes with her wherever she goes. She recently had her mobile phone and her trolley stolen. She came to cohealth’s homelessness service in Melbourne’s CBD because she’d heard that she could get vaccinated there, and it was a less intimidating environment for her with social workers on hand to step her through the process. She doesn’t have ID or documentation, but that wasn’t a problem as the cohealth vaccine team was able to process her without it. While she was there they set her up with a new mobile phone and a pre-paid data plan so they could send her a reminder about her follow-up jab. They also told her next time she was welcome to bring her cat to the service.
Hussein, 31, has limited English, and no family support. He has cycled through different temporary accommodation for a while in Melbourne’s western suburbs, and has struggled with social isolation. He has been wanting to get vaccinated for a while, but wasn’t sure whether he was eligible, or how to navigate the health system. He’s also anxious about getting needles. On the day of the vaccination, Community health service, cohealth, arranged transport for him to get from his home to the vaccination clinic and back again. They also sent him home with some reusable masks and a food package. cohealth, have been working with him to address some of his health and social issues, including encouraging him to join the cohealth Kangas, a footy team for people experiencing disadvantage.
“I wanted to get vaccinated to protect myself, protect the community, to finish lockdown, and make a safer country. I want everything to become normal again. I want to come back to family visits.” – Hussein.
Photo credit: Chris Hopkins / The Age