KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – As vaccine rollout continues in the Tri-Cities region, those who work with an already overlooked population believe now is the time to focus on those who have little-to-no access to get the shot.
“Sadly, the homeless feel often like maybe they are not important, their life doesn’t matter,” said Pastor Will Shewey of Shades of Grace. “They, in fact, do matter.”
Shades of Grace works daily with the homeless population of Kingsport by feeding them and keeping access to services open throughout the pandemic.
“They are valued, and we want them to be safe,” Shewey said. “We want them to stay healthy.”
Shades of Grace reached out to the Sullivan County Regional Health Department to arrange the first vaccine clinic for those who are homeless in the community to come to their downtown church and get the shot.
“If you don’t ensure that they have access, you are missing a portion of the population that already are hampered with healthcare and immunocompromised and don’t have the best of living conditions,” said Sullivan County Regional Health Department Emergency Response Coordinator Mark Moody. “You still want to protect that population from the coronavirus.”
For those experiencing homelessness, there are already many challenges when it comes to access to healthcare even outside of a pandemic, so getting to a vaccine appointment or a drive-thru without a car can’t happen.
“The barriers are many, but we are here to try and lower those barriers,” Shewey said.
The Thursday clinic will offer the Johnson and Johnson single-shot vaccine, which removes yet another hurdle for those who are homeless.
“We will be able to vaccinate the homeless population and not worry with the logistics of getting them back for a second dose,” Shewey said. “To get them one place is one thing, but to get them back in the same location a second time is sometimes almost impossible.”
The homeless are invited to show up to Shades of Grace Thursday where they will wait in a socially distanced line and get their shot with no questions asked.
The clinic is at 10 a.m. at Shades of Grace on E. Sullivan Street in Downtown Kingsport. Around 100-150 doses of the vaccine will be available on a first-come first-served basis until they run out.