COVID vaccines will be on offer alongside hot meals at a range of CBD and inner city meals services and homelessness drop-in centres thanks to cohealth.
cohealth’s mobile vaccination van will pull up curbside, adding vaccines to the menu, delivered by a team of cohealth nurses, social workers and peer workers (staff with a lived experience of homelessness).
Health Guide, Paul* (not his real name), has been working with cohealth during 2021 to help get information about vaccinations to people experiencing homelessness, living in rooming houses and other high risk accommodation. Paul was sleeping rough for several years, and now lives in his car.
“I come from the streets, and people trust me because we’ve walked the same path,” said Paul.
“I know how to relay information to them in a way that they understand. They can trust me because we’ve walked the same path,” said Paul.
Paul says by bringing the pop-up clinic to the door, cohealth is ensuring that the vaccine is accessible to marginalised people, who are more at-risk of COVID.
“We are taking the vaccine to places that they know. People who are homeless often have a routine, places that they go to access regular food or other aid. When people come to get their lunch or dinner at the Salvos café, or St Mark’s or Lazerus Centre, they’ll see our van and know something is happening,” said Paul.
cohealth’s mobile vaccination van will visit the following sites. No appointments are necessary, and people don’t need a Medicare card to get the vaccination.
The cohealth mobile vaccination clinics are funded by the Victorian Government to support people experiencing homelessness to get vaccinated.
“As the city begins opening back up it’s crucial that no-one is left behind in the vaccine rollout. Bringing the vaccine to people who don’t have a secure home, or are in crisis, is a vital piece of the puzzle in living with the pandemic,” said Ms Bartholomeusz.
Ms Bartholomeusz said that including people who have experienced homelessness on the vaccination team allowed cohealth to build trust quickly with the target client group.
“Our peer workers are essential to the vaccine rollout to the homeless community. Their experience of homelessness enables them to connect with people and gain trust,” she said.
Major Brendan Nottle, Commanding Officer at the Salvation Army, said, “It’s great to be able to bring the vaccine to where people are. The people we support are far more vulnerable to getting COVID because of their housing situation.
“Many of our clients are reluctant to go to mainstream doctors and hospitals, so the Magpie Nest Café is a safe place for people to ask questions about the vaccine and feel supported to go through the vaccination process,” he said.