Shelter works to bolster vaccination rates among Oahu’s homeless

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 7:13 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Across the state, efforts to vaccinate homeless individuals are underway and staff at shelters are hopeful for the future.

The executive director of the Institute for Human Services, Connie Mitchell, said that they have been vaccinating so many clients, they believe they are keeping up with the vaccination rates of the general public.

Project Vision, a non-profit that has been doing COVID-19 outreach since the pandemic began, comes to the Sumner Men’s Shelter weekly to vaccinate, test and educate guests.

”We’ve probably been here over a hundred times,” said Jolana Gollero, a registered nurse with Project Vision. “We’ve been coming here to do COVID testing since July, and we’ve been doing J & J and Moderna shots.”

They were also helping out staff at the shelter during an outbreak in August.

It was turned into a quarantine facility when 56 guests and six workers tested positive for COVID-19. One frontline staff member, Willie Talamoa, died.

“I think he was an inspiration, definitely,” said Mitchell. “And we haven’t forgotten.”

Mitchell said the events in August bring even more urgency to vaccinate guests.

“If you look around, we’ve lost a lot of beds here,” Mitchell said. “We just can’t serve as many people.”

Kawika Maka went to the vaccination and testing event on Friday. IHS has helped him immensely and he said he’s on his way to recovery from homelessness and drug addiction.

“It’s a blessing to have opportunities,” he said. “But just to have the opportunity doesn’t mean anything if you don’t take it.”

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