Mobile outreach program helps vaccinate Bendigo's homeless

The Bendigo Health team has been following the HeyVan to help vaccinate the homeless. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
The Bendigo Health team has been following the HeyVan to help vaccinate the homeless. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

Bendigo Health has teamed up with Haven Home Safe and Madcow to ensure everyone across the central Victorian region can access vaccinations.

Bendigo Health's Homeless Vaccination Program resumed on January 17, offering second and third doses to people who are sleeping rough.

In Victoria on any given night there are approximately 1,100 people without secure housing.

Director of homelessness service Madcow, Matt Parkinson, told the Bendigo Advertiser in December that COVID-19 lockdowns had been contributing to a rise in homelessness in the region.

He said since the lockdown lifted, they were seeing (on average) 2.5 new guests per week.

"Clients come from locally, interstate, other regional towns and Melbourne," he said.

"If they are local they usually become homeless after a relationship breakdown, whether that be with a partner or their immediate family."

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Chief executive of Melbourne community health organisation Cohealth Nicole Bartholomeusz said language difficulties, cost and stigma were some of the barriers that prevented vulnerable groups from accessing mainstream health services.

"People experiencing homelessness and other vulnerabilities are at higher risk of exposure to COVID and yet face greater barriers to accessing the vaccine," she said.

The Bendigo Health team has been following the Haven Home Safe HeyVan around the city to visit areas frequented by the region's homeless population.

The HeyVan is part of the Homeless Assertive Outreach Response Program (HAOP), an Victorian government initiative of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Plan.

"The Bendigo Health team can meet and have a conversation with the homeless about the vaccination and administer it to them if the person chooses," said a spokesperson for the program.

This story The 'vax-van' hits the streets to offer jab to homeless first appeared on Bendigo Advertiser.