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Southern Indiana organizations provide vaccines to people who are homeless

Volunteers at LouVax are shown in this March 2021 photo.
Baptist Health and Norton Healthcare have begun offering the new bivalent COVID-19 boosters, which target the omicron variant.

Community organizations in Southern Indiana have been working to provide opportunities for vaccination to those experiencing homelessness. 

LifeSpring Health Systems has hosted multiple clinics at Catalyst Rescue Mission, the shelter in Jeffersonville. The most recent was in late October, where shelter director Meredith Clipp-Rodriquez said around half the residents were able to get booster shots. 

Residents are encouraged, but not required, to get a vaccine. New people seeking shelter there need to have a negative test if they're not vaccinated, which staff help them get. They must also wear a mask in the shelter if unvaccinated. 

“We stress making sure they have the opportunity and knowledge of what goes on with the vaccination and how it can be helpful,” Clipp-Rodriquez said. “Because it is a very vulnerable group of folks, and we want to make sure they are safe in any way possible as they’re here.”

Groups like LifeSpring, the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana, local health departments and others have also done outreach to those who are unsheltered. 

Leslea Townsend Cronin, director at the Homeless Coalition, said they’ve most recently been reaching folks who need vaccinations or boosters through the “white flag” emergency shelter in Jeffersonville. That’s held when temperatures are 35 degrees or below. 

“We know that people that experience homelessness and who are unstably housed already face disparate health outcomes and so making sure they have their COVID vaccination and COVID booster is incredibly important, especially as we move into winter months,” said Beth Keeney, CEO at LifeSpring. 

In Louisville, Dr. SaraBeth Hartlage, the associate medical director at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, said there have also been outreach efforts -- at shelters, encampments and through vaccine clinics. 

Anyone can also visit the health departments in Clark and Floyd counties for the shots. In Louisville, people can go to the Family Health Centers Phoenix Health Care for the Homeless clinic.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.