Homeless services provider Father Joe's Villages is preparing for a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination effort for its clients once they become eligible under the state's vaccination rollout, its leaders announced Monday.
Father Joe's Villages will adopt a multi-level approach to ensure people in need have access to vaccinations, including vaccination events offered in congregate living shelters, in collaboration with San Diego County. The organization's plan also includes residential, case management, day center and outreach teams providing education on vaccination to people living in its housing programs and to those on the street to encourage individuals to get vaccinated.
"Father Joe's Villages is dedicated to supporting the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination to the people we serve,'' said Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO at Father Joe's. "By prioritizing the health of our neighbors experiencing homelessness, we are creating a San Diego where the lives of all residents are valued and worth protecting, regardless of race, creed or socio-economic background. Father Joe's Villages will continue to advocate for a process that increases access to the vaccine with compassion and dignity.''
The organization's clients fall under the state's Phase 1B Tier 2 as part of congregate settings with outbreak risk along with incarcerated people. Also in that tier are people at risk of exposure in the transportation and logistics, industrial, commercial, residential, and sheltering facilities and services and critical manufacturing industries. It is the next tier to become eligible under the state's plan.
According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, people experiencing homelessness are at high risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus and are more likely to experience negative health outcomes.
"Disproportionate levels of chronic illness and disability, as well as the conditions of living on the streets, means our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness are more at-risk of serious health consequences due to COVID-19,'' said Dr. Jeffrey Norris, chief medical officer at Father Joe's Villages. "It's critical that our community prioritizes vaccine distribution for these citizens and those who have been working on the frontlines to protect our community's health and safety.''
The organization has launched a special COVID-19 Vaccination Fund to cover the increased costs of their critical vaccination, including increased staffing hours across its programs, equipment to store vaccines such as dry ice, personal protective equipment, increased uncovered medical expenses and incentives to encourage clients to get vaccinated.