Siouxland District Health works to help vaccinate homeless population

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – COVID-19 vaccines are now available to people as young as 16-years-old but getting the vaccine can be difficult for some people.

The director of the Gospel Mission, Paul Mahaffie, said they didn’t know if they’d receive any vaccine, and if they did, how they’d go about vaccinating the homeless.

But the Siouxland District Health Department said a lot of time and resources have gone into helping meet people where they are.

“It is important with this vaccine to meet people where they’re at. We’ve been to The Gospel Mission. We’ve been to The Warming Shelter a couple of times,” Tyler Brock, Deputy Director of Siouxland District Health, said.

Brock mentions one of the biggest challenges with distributing the vaccine has been getting it to people.

That’s why he said meeting people where they are has been part of the health department’s mission.

“We know that COVID has always spread very well in what we call congregate settings, and so a big part of what we did, especially in Phase 1b, is trying to get to those folks that live in those congregate settings,” Brock said.

The health department has provided area shelters with whichever COVID-19 vaccine was available.

“They informed me that they have the Johnson & Johnson, the one-shot, which is good for missions because we don’t know how long somebody’s going to be here. So if they’re not here at the end of the 30-day waiting period, then we have a problem,” Pastor Paul Mahaffie, director of The Gospel Mission, said.

Mahaffie also said the vaccine opportunity provides mission residents with hope.

“It was music to their ears, here you go you have an opportunity,” Mahaffie said.

This is especially true for resident Tom Lines, who said registering for a vaccine posed challenges for many homeless people like him.

“Most of us don’t have computers. Don’t have access to the internet,” Lines said.

But, Lines said now, he can begin his path toward normalcy.

“My girlfriend has got several underlying health conditions… It feels good to have the vaccination done and to know that I will be able to go do the stuff I want to go do,” Lines added.

Tyler Brock said there are benefits to getting a one-shot vaccine especially if you’re homeless and move around a lot. But he mentions people should take any opportunity they have to get a vaccine.

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