COVID-19: United effort to vaccinate Gold Coast’s homeless community
The Gold Coast Homelessness Network (GCHN) has coordinated vaccination clinics to protect some of the most vulnerable members of the community from COVID-19.
Members of the Gold Coast Homelessness Network, including QCOSS, coordinated the pop-up clinic at Ashben Medical Centre in Benowa, with transport provided by Serving Our People to get people to and from their appointments.
It’s the first of several pop-up clinics which are being held over the coming weeks to administer Pfizer vaccinations to dozens of people experiencing, or at risk of homelessness.
“Helping people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness to access the vaccine is really important,” said QCOSS Principal Project and Engagement Officer and Gold Coast Homelessness Network Regional Care Coordinator, Ryan O’Leary.
“They’re often a group of people that are more vulnerable to the rest of the community in terms of access to safe environments where they can self-isolate and have their own space, as well as having other health conditions at a higher rate than the rest of the population.”
Kevin was one of a dozen people to receive his first Pfizer vaccination at the Gold Coast Homeless Network’s first vaccination clinic in early September. He said he was happy to get it and it was easy to make it to his appointment.
Ryan said collaboration was crucial, with services working together to arrange paperwork and buses organised by Serving our People.
“We wanted to look at ways that we could work together and partner to provide that access to health care which is so important to people,” he said.
“The Homelessness Network runs a range of activities, all of them built on the philosophy that we can’t do these things well individually. It has to be a group effort.”
Ashben Medical Centre’s Dr Dona Hooshmand said she was grateful to be involved in the vaccination clinic and work with the network to help overcome some of the barriers for vulnerable communities.
“There are a lot of barriers, firstly the fear of just coming to a health service, and establishing that trust,” Dr Hooshmand said.
“There’s also barriers of logistics, of transportation and getting to centres, booking and getting your Medicare details – it can be a lot of paperwork and stress to deal with.
“Some things you can work through, but there’s always going to be some challenges there.”
Dr Hooshmand encouraged everyone to get vaccinated to protect both themselves and their community.
“Vaccinations are really important – they prevent severe or fatal Covid, which is what we want to do,” Dr Hooshmand said.
“We know we’re not going to be able to eliminate Covid completely, but the idea is to make it a very mild type of illness, and the vaccines are really good at doing that. It’s really important to do the best we can, in the situation we’re in, to protect ourselves and the community.”
Tony said he was initially nervous about getting vaccinated, but was encouraged to get it after recently getting a job as a Lollipop man, or school crossing supervisor.
Dr Hooshmand acknowledged that mixed messages about the vaccines had caused some confusion and anxiety for people.
“If you’re hesitant, nervous, or confused, go and speak to your GP or go to a clinic where doctors are involved with the vaccination roll-out and at least ask the questions. I’d encourage anyone who’s feeling unsure to speak to your doctor or a doctor in the community about it,” she said.
The Gold Coast Homelessness Network will work with services to administer vaccines to more people in the community over the next month and are hoping to deliver mobile clinics to reach more people who are sleeping rough.
For more information about the Gold Coast Homelessness Network’s COVID-19 Vaccination clinics, contact Ryan O’Leary on [email protected] or 0422 846 067.
The Gold Coast Homelessness Network was established in 1993 and is an integrated, multi-agency network of services that addresses issues of homelessness in the Gold Coast area. It connects people with public and private housing and support services, raises awareness of homelessness issues, and advocates for improved support for homeless people on the Gold Coast.