|A team from the British Red Cross has joined the NHS in Croydon and several local organisations in a drive to get the homeless population vaccinated against Covid-19.|
The Red Cross team paid visits to local hotels where homeless people are being accommodated during the pandemic to bring them NHS information about the vaccine, allay any concerns they may have, and help them get over to the vaccination site using Dr Sharon Raymond’s inspired “Vaxi Taxi” system.
The scheme has been a great success so far – in just two days in late June and July, the pop-up vaccination clinic has vaccinated 140 homeless people and provided them with several other vital services.
Red Cross volunteers joined with other organisations including Spires, Turning Point, Crisis and Croydon Reach to welcome homeless people to the pop-up, where they could receive full medical checks, tests for Covid-19 and Hepatitis-C, dental and dermatology appointments, clothes, food and drug and alcohol support.
David Harbert-Wright has been living on the street or in insecure accommodation for some time. During the pandemic he has been temporarily housed in hotels and is hoping to get his own place in the next couple of months.
“I was living on the street at the start of the pandemic,” David says. “I was really worried about getting sick as I was at my most vulnerable then. But once the vaccine came along, I started hearing different things and I became a bit sceptical.”
He met the Red Cross team at the Croydon Hotel where he was staying and learned about this opportunity to get the Covid vaccine.
“They asked me if I’d thought about getting the jab,” David says. “I was still sceptical but they gave me some solid information. It made me a lot more confident about getting it.”
The “Vaxi Taxi” helped David travel to the drop-in and he was very impressed with the services on offer.
“I got my jab, and I got a Covid test and a Hep C test, which were both negative,” he says, “They gave me a health check, I saw a dentist and I got a food parcel. Lovely, friendly people, a very good day.”
“Now I feel a lot more at ease. I’m glad I got my vaccination,” he says.
Virginia Cassama, 56, from South London, took a break from her nursing career after losing her father to Covid-19 and began volunteering with the Red Cross to support vaccination clinics. She has been involved in the outreach work to encourage homeless people to be vaccinated.
“Sometimes people wouldn’t want to talk to us,” says Virginia. “But I gave them a chance to hear a different perspective. It’s so important to listen to people and let them talk – once they understood we didn’t want anything except a conversation, we had a chance of helping them”
Virginia says she met a “lovely boy” who didn’t want to get the vaccine because he was worried about being judged as a drug user. “He was quite confrontational at first, but we had a good conversation,” says Virginia. “The next day he came along to the drop-in and asked to see the doctor in private. Next thing we knew, he had the vaccine!”
Dr Agnelo Fernandes, GP Borough Lead for Croydon, said:
We all know that the Covid-19 vaccines are lifesaving and getting jabbed helps protect us all against the virus – this is another fantastic example of how Croydon GPs are working closely with others to ensure the most vulnerable people in our communities receive theirs.
“I would urge anyone who hasn’t yet had their first vaccination or now needs their second dose to visit one of the many walk-in clinics in the area. All the details can be found on the South West London Clinical Commissioning Group website.”
The homeless people supported by this initiative will soon be offered their second doses of the vaccine. Meanwhile, the British Red Cross team is working with Croydon Council to help them reach other groups who face specific barriers to services, such as ex-offenders in temporary housing, to give them the opportunity to get vaccinated.
Notes to editors
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The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and overseas to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives. www.redcross.org.uk
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South West London CCG