City News

COVID NSW: Vaccinations given to Sydney’s most vulnerable in Ashfield

Pfizer vaccinations were administrated to homeless people by The Rev Bill Crews Foundation in Ashfield on Tuesday. Photo: The Rev. Bill Crews Foundation.

By KATELYN MILLIGAN

157 Pfizer vaccinations were administrated to homeless people most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic by The Rev Bill Crews Foundation in Ashfield on the 13th of July.

One of society’s most vulnerable groups were left behind by the Federal Government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, with charities such as The Rev Bill Crews Foundation working hard to catch those who have slipped through the cracks.

Given Sydney’s recent COVID-19 outbreak, the city’s homeless people are extremely vulnerable to the virus, with many who attended the vaccination hub having multiple chronic illnesses.

Reverend Bill Crews has been campaigning for vaccinations for the homeless since the start of the pandemic.

“I kept saying they’re as vulnerable as old people in nursing homes, but they kept getting overlooked. It’s dangerous to leave them behind,” Rev. Crews told the Independent.

Rev. Crews says it’s in society’s best interest to vaccinate the homeless, as they pose a great risk of spreading the virus amongst the community, often congregating together and roaming the city.

“It’s kind of a two-way thing where they’re vulnerable, and the community is vulnerable to them. So it’s really important that they get vaccinated for everybody,” Rev. Crews said.

Community reaction

One difficulty the Foundation faces is that the COVID vaccine requires two doses to be administrated three weeks apart, making it difficult to coordinate with rough sleepers and the homeless who don’t have a fixed address.

Local resident and community service teacher Nadia Ballantine-Jones says the initiative is important in preventing vulnerable people from being left behind.

“There are so many marginalized and vulnerable people. The work that Reverend Bill Crews and the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre does is paramount for inclusiveness and … giving support to vulnerable people more than ever now with COVID.”

Front line workers of the Foundation and Newtown Neighbourhood Centre who work with people experiencing homelessness were among those vaccinated on Tuesday.

Newtown Neighbourhood Centre CEO Liz Yoh was one of the frontline workers who received the vaccine. Yoh says she noticed some hesitancy amongst participants due to the lack of reliable information about the vaccine available to the homeless.

“So, to have a place like [the Foundation], where many, many people experiencing homelessness in isolation, are familiar with that environment, they feel safe there. They trust the people that work there. That makes a big difference in terms of people’s willingness to come in and get vaccinated,” Yoh told the Independent.

Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne has praised the work of The Foundation.

“I congratulate and thank the Rev. Bill Crews for ensuring that the most vulnerable in our community are able to get their COVID vaccinations,” Byrne told the Independent.

Both The Rev Bill Crews Foundation and Newtown Neighbourhood Centre have upcoming plans to open further vaccination hubs for vulnerable individuals experiencing homelessness in overlooked Sydney areas.

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