Windsor begins COVID-19 vaccinations for people experiencing homelessness

·3 min read
Dean Giffen was the first individual to received the COVID-19 vaccine at the city's temporary emergency shelter at the aquatic centre Wednesday, according to Essex-Windsor EMS. (Essex-Windsor EMS - image credit)
Dean Giffen was the first individual to received the COVID-19 vaccine at the city's temporary emergency shelter at the aquatic centre Wednesday, according to Essex-Windsor EMS. (Essex-Windsor EMS - image credit)

Johnny Cadarian came out of quarantine ten days ago after being "severely sick" with COVID-19. Now, he's one of the first people experiencing homelessness in Windsor-Essex to get the first dose of a vaccine.

"It felt good, but I've always been a bit unsure about vaccines, especially this being so new," he said. "I guess I'm just hoping for the best and like I said I was really, really sick so I would hope not to get sick again."

Cadarian was one of many others experiencing homelessness who received a vaccine outside the City of Windsor's temporary emergency shelter set up at Windsor's International Aquatic and Training Centre Wednesday.

"It's difficult to adhere to a 'stay at home' order, when you don't have a home," Mayor Drew Dilkens stated in the release on Wednesday. "We are grateful that our residents who face additional challenges from COVID-19 are able to access the vaccine."

The news follows a dispute between the Downtown Mission and the City of Windsor, which came amid a large COVID-19 outbreak affecting members of the homeless community that caused officials to scramble over appropriate shelter space.

Bruce Patterson says people experiencing homelessness in Windsor-Essex should have been able to get the vaccine much sooner.
Bruce Patterson says people experiencing homelessness in Windsor-Essex should have been able to get the vaccine much sooner.(Sanjay Maru/CBC)

In an email to CBC News, the city said that this initiative began as a result of provincial prioritization and was not due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The outbreak began at the start of February and has seen more than 100 people contract the disease, with some testing positive for COVID-19 variants.

The city continued to say that Windsor Regional Hospital worked with the health unit to create a vaccination process for this group. No walk-ins are allowed and everyone has to be pre-registered by staff at either the Salvation Army, the Welcome Centre Shelter for Women and Families or the aquatic centre.

Bruce Patterson, who stayed at the aquatic centre overnight last week and has used the Downtown Mission's services over the last decade, says it's taken too long to get people experiencing homelessness vaccinated.

"They should have had it ... as soon as it became available," he told CBC News Wednesday.

The city says this testing effort is unrelated to recent outbreaks at two shelters.
The city says this testing effort is unrelated to recent outbreaks at two shelters. (Essex-Windsor EMS)

"To be treated like this by this city, it's just horrendous ... they really don't care and yeah OK the homeless is a small minority of the people in this town but I mean the way this vaccine is rolling out it just doesn't make sense whatsoever, at least not to me anyway."

Patterson has not yet received a shot but said he is eager to get it, adding the city's effort to provide vaccines for the homeless community is "better late than never."

The city said its staff isare working with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and paramedics from Windsor-Essex EMS to vaccinate people at the shelter.