'Hope One' bus helps Atlantic County sheriff vaccinate hundreds without home

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The sheriff's office in Atlantic County, New Jersey is making it a mission to help vaccinate the homeless.

"They don't need any ID, they just have to fill out a quick form," explained Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler.

In partnership with Rowan University, his office hosted its second pop-up clinic at Renaissance Plaza, targeting the transient community.

"It really does allow us to go and touch the public where it's needed in the communities," he said.

The "office" for the staff was the "Hope One" bus, which the sheriff's office uses to reach out to the homeless and those struggling with addiction. Specialists go out in the community several times a week to try and reach people.

"We connect people in crisis to treatment," said Scheffler.

In this case, the bus was being used to help administer more than 200 Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccines to the community.

"They don't have calendars and phones and it helps a lot, the one-shot deal," said Douglas Martin, a recovery specialist.

While the CDC cleared the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the sheriff says the pause for safety concerns resulted in some distrust in the community. His team is trying to combat that with outreach and education.

"Really more than 7 million shots have been administered," explained Martin, who, at slow points in the clinic, walked the streets to try and recruit more patients.

"If anybody you know is looking to get the vaccine, we'll be here all day," he told one group.

He says clinics like this may be the best shot for the homeless to get protected against COVID-19.

"It is a gamechanger and it is very important to get people vaccinated," he said.

In the 15 minute waiting period after inoculation, patients were also connected with a specialist to offer resources for housing and addiction.

"They're encouraging people to come forward, either for themselves or a family member, connecting them to treatment and giving them the resources they need to maybe find treatment at a later time," said Scheffler.
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