Inoculating Bucks County’s Homeless against COVID-19 Is a Boots-on-the-Ground Effort

Vaccinations for the homeless Bucks County
Image via Steven M. Falk at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Richard Valier gets is J&J vaccine from Sarah Izzo, RN, at the St Paul's Lutheran Church in Doylestown.

Administering healthcare to the homeless is tough in a big city like Philadelphia. But it can be even more daunting in widespread geographies like Bucks County. Aubrey Whelen, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, examined the unique challenges of vaccinating a nomadic, suburban population.

Homelessness in the suburbs tends to be more of a solo existence. That separateness complicates healthcare delivery — including COVID-19 vaccines. Success requires more diligence in finding, educating, transporting, and following up with a transient population. 

Overcoming the difficulties, as tough as they may be, remains a priority. 

Health issues are more likely to immunocompromise homeless populations. Quarantining is also problematic. 

Doylestown Lutheran Church’s vaccination effort was specifically positioned to address these issues.

Even when residents had the wherewithal to make a shot appointment, they often skipped it, owing to transportation shortfalls. So, the staff took to its cars, patrolled the streets, and brought in people needing a shot. 

“We wanted to eliminate every barrier we can,” said Kim Everett, executive director of the Bucks County Health Improvement Partnership, which helped organize the Doylestown Lutheran Church site. 

In Montgomery and Chester Counties, other techniques have revolved around piggybacking efforts atop services the homeless already use. Moving COVID-19 inoculations to shelters and food pantries paid off with increased numbers of vaccines in arms. 

“We’ve had individuals come up to us and [say] some really kind words about being able to get vaccinated in an environment they’re most familiar with,” said one clinic volunteer. 

More on the challenges of homelessness and COVID-19 is in The Philadelphia Inquirer

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