Vaccinating An Often Overlooked Population — Homeless Marylanders

Melvin King sits at Healthcare for the Homeless just after receiving his second COVID-19 vaccine dose. In his hand, he holds a phone number he can call to make an appointment for his 85-year-old mother.

Sixty-eight-year-old Melvin King was visibly elated. As the sticker on his chest declared, he had just received his COVID-19 vaccine.

“My second one, as a matter of fact,” he said. “I’ve been looking forward to it, you know, and I think, you know, that this is very important to everyone, not just to myself.”

King’s primary care doctor here, at Healthcare for the Homeless in Baltimore, called him to make the appointment.

King said he lives with his 85-year-old mother, who has dementia, in an apartment in East Baltimore.

“She hasn’t had a shot yet because of her not having a computer — access to a computer — or transportation,” King said.

After he got his shot, the staff at Healthcare for the Homeless gave him a phone number he can call to make an appointment for his mother. When he spoke with WYPR, he was still gripping a slip of paper with the number on it, and even through his mask, his excitement was visible.

As Maryland continues its efforts to vaccinate residents against COVID-19, one of the most vulnerable groups clamoring for protection from the virus is residents who experience some form of homelessness or housing insecurity.

“Homelessness itself was already a public health emergency,” said Kevin Lindamood, president and CEO of Healthcare for the Homeless, which treats about 10,000 clients in a non-pandemic year. “The people that we were working with and are working with — disproportionately Black and brown — were already dying from hypertension and diabetes, already suffering high rates of mental health and addiction.”

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