Vaccination clinic opens for those who have experienced homelessness in Philadelphia

PHILAELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) -- "I've been trying to get down here for the longest time to get this shot," said Marjorie Hightower.

With the aid of crutches, she descended two floors beneath Broad Street to get her COVID-19 vaccination at the "Hub of Hope." Operated by Project HOME, a non-profit dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness in Philadelphia, the safe haven is a place she has visited before.

"I used to be homeless," said Hightower. "It's a nightmare."

She described the experience with painful attention to detail.

"I lived like an animal behind dumpsters waiting for them to mess up burgers so I could get it and eat it," she said. "Living in abandoned houses, couldn't find a place that nobody wouldn't hurt me."

It was Project HOME that shone a light on Hightower.

"They worked with me and found me someplace safe," she said. "They saved my life."

The medical clinic detected cancer and treated her appropriately. Hightower, 58, now says she is cancer-free. She has a roof under her head in Germantown thanks to the non-profit's guidance. Furthermore, she was singing their praises today as she received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"I didn't even feel nothing," she joked.

Still, there are many more individuals who are currently homeless whose lives have been further rocked by the pandemic.

"When they go to a shelter, there isn't easy social distancing there," said Monica Medina-McCurdy, the Vice President of Healthcare Services at Project HOME."They can't have any place to recuperate if they become sick and with the virus, so it's a terrible, terrible situation for people who are homeless."

Securing these vaccine doses is a step in the right direction. The clinic has worked with the city of Philadelphia to administer roughly 100 shots so far.

"Our vaccination site is exclusively for people that are homeless or house insecure, or living in congregate settings," said Ivel Morales, the Medical Director of the Hub of Hope clinic. "They meet the 1B criteria."

The small operation has slightly expanded to four days per week. They are conducting outreach to schedule appointments for individuals who are currently homeless in addition to extending the invitation to current Hub patients.

"By vaccinating them, we're preventing them from them getting sick, but also, we are helping the whole city with the pandemic," said Morales.

To learn more about the Hub of Hope, visit their website.

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