Thanks to each of you for the work you’re doing to ensure people experiencing homelessness and service providers have access to COVID-19 vaccinations. Protecting people we serve, staff, and volunteers, is no small task. No matter what stage of vaccine response your community is in currently, you should take action now to strengthen communication with public health partners, provide education to all, and create a plan for assisting people in receiving their vaccination.
Continuums of Care (CoC) and homeless service providers should ensure that no one is denied services or entry into shelter or housing programs based on their vaccination status. Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program recipients and subrecipients cannot require program participants to perform any prerequisite activities, which includes mandating that participants take the COVID-19 vaccine, as a condition for staying in any shelter or receiving services (see Section III.F.10 of Notice: CPD-20-08). In addition, HUD strongly encourages CoCs and homeless services providers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by using a Housing First approach, which rapidly places and stabilizes individuals in permanent housing without preconditions or barriers to entry.
HUD encourages communities to continue working with public health to facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccines for people experiencing homelessness as expeditiously as possible. Currently, there are two federally approved vaccinations being distributed to states. HUD is aware of the logistical challenges that communities are faced with regarding the 2-dose vaccination regimen. Communities should not wait for an alternative vaccine to become available before rolling out the vaccine to eligible populations.
See the COVID-19 Vaccination: HUD Message at HUD.gov for key policy issues.
Updated CDC Guidance
Utilizing Incentives to Increase Vaccine Adherence
As CoCs build their toolkits to educate, engage, and inform people experiencing homelessness about the vaccine they may want to consider using incentives as an additional tool. Incentives should be designed in partnership with people experiencing homelessness and vaccine ambassadors. Incentives have proven to result in higher adherence with immunizations when they are paired with vaccine education, engagement, and interventions to ease access to vaccines (e.g., transportation, childcare). One way to fund incentives is to ask for support from your organization’s donor base. Below we include a sample donor letter template and social media messages that can be posted by your supporters.
Planning for Congregate Vaccination Events
In previous issues we provided you with the tools to begin planning for congregate events to bring the vaccine to people experiencing homelessness and a sample floor plan. Below is a checklist to assist you in thinking through all aspects of planning an onsite event.
It’s important that CoCs and providers continue to focus on providing information and conducting outreach to people experiencing homelessness and staff. Resources to support your efforts in addressing concerns that people experiencing homelessness and staff may have are included below. We encourage you to share this information with program participants. Also included is information on myths that exist and how to counter them with accurate information.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has been challenging for everyone, including staff. The National Alliance to End Homelessness has provided an excellent toolkit to assist you in caring for homeless services staff during the pandemic and vaccination rollout.
Be safe and take care of yourself!