This is the most difficult piece I have ever had to write on the issue of homelessness and supportive housing. Like all of you, I tend to be very hesitant about bureaucratic hurdles that keep people from being able to access housing from homelessness, and through this, I still will be in the vast majority of circumstances.
However, the resurgence of COVID-19 due to the delta variant and widespread vaccine refusal has forced my hand, and it has created a situation where so many people—myself included—have no more patience for those who want to endanger others and prolong the pandemic.
It is time for the City — specifically, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing — to require all homeless and formerly homeless clients to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition of accessing services and housing, except for very rare medical exemptions.
This will undoubtedly be controversial. But with the full vaccination rate among unhoused people at only 39%, there is definitely an equity issue with access to the vaccine, despite that it’s been widely available since April. Providers need to do all they can to help vulnerable people access vaccination and meet them where they are at. However, we can no longer tolerate vaccine refusal given the ongoing pandemic.
I live in a single-resident occupancy hotel used for supportive housing. I know that there are unvaccinated people living in my building — some of them even told me themselves. But although just like the City is requiring everyone regardless of vaccination status to wear masks indoors while taking half-measures in terms of vaccination mandates, my building’s management is cracking down and threatening to evict people for not wearing masks, while the bigger danger to immunocompromised people like me is people walking around my building unvaccinated, masked or not.
Many people, including myself,, don’t want to keep wearing masks forever; I want to get back to enjoying things, and I want the city to continue to build back better. However, we need vaccine requirements at all levels of society to end this pandemic; masks can’t do it alone. Vaccination requirements for various illnesses, such as polio and the measles, have existed for a long time for children who wish to go to school, and given the nature of this virus, this is no different.
Vaccines work. Contrary to what conspiracy theorists tell you, they don’t alter your DNA, they don’t make you autistic, there is no microchip, and while there is a chance of a breakthrough infection, they are still rare and vaccination can be the difference between sniffles and suffocation. There is no such thing as “vaccine hesitancy” anymore: You are either vaccinated, in the process of getting vaccinated, or you are prolonging this pandemic and dragging us all down with you. I got vaccinated (Team Pfizer) back in March, and we the vaccinated should not have to be punished by misguided mitigation measures because of irresponsible people. Vax refusal is not skydiving; it’s drunk driving.
What I have to say hurts more than the jab itself, but if we are to get out of this and protect our densely housed community, we all must roll up our sleeves and do our part.