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Vaccinate the homeless. They're ignored enough.

4 1 18

Homeless individuals are accustomed to suffering silently. Nevermore so has this been the case than with all the noise of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which more than 500,000 Americans have died.

One wet morning this past December, as a volunteer at an emergency overnight homeless shelter in North Carolina, I had the disturbing task of closing the building in order to meet our commitment to be out by 8 a.m. That morning, this required escorting our guests outside into a freezing, pouring rain. There was a steady rain predicted for the next three days with temperatures in the 40s — cold enough to be dangerous and cause hypothermia, but not cold enough to meet the emergency shelter criteria for opening.

With access to our normal local shelters restricted due to COVID-19, this meant these individuals were going to be stuck outside in the elements. As they left, most carrying large bags with their belongings through large puddles, the level of quiet acceptance and resignation was almost haunting — most even displayed grateful smiles and expressions of gratitude as they left. Predictably, that week we saw an increase of hypothermia and exposure-related visits in our hospital.

Historically, data around homelessness reveals the extent of human suffering that should push us all to action. Nationally, the life expectancy of the chronically homeless still hovers around only 50 years of age. Approximately 45%........


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