2nd round of vaccinations boosts prevention for Detroit's homeless population

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

For the 10 years Lorie Field has been experiencing homelessness, she says she has felt unseen and unheard. But on Thursday, the 53-year-old felt cared for as she received her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Field was among nearly 70 Detroiters experiencing homelessness who got their second vaccination shots at Detroit's TCF Center on Thursday. 

Derrick Nicholson (left), receives his second dose of the Moderna vaccine by Leanna Crump, RN, Mclaren Macomb, at the TCF Center.

"I'm just happy that someone's trying to take care of me. You can go to a medical center to get all this done but the fact that it's here just for the homeless ... these are the kindest people," Field said. 

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With the help of Detroit's Health Department, about 250 doses of the vaccine were administered for the Pope Francis Center, a day center in the city that serves those without housing.

The center finished the vaccination process that started on Jan. 14 for about 70 guests at its temporary operation site at the TCF Center. Vaccines were also administered to those who needed their first dose.

Jenna Helsing, a Wayne State University nursing student, administers the Moderna vaccine to Karen Stroud at the TCF Center as the Pope Francis Center of Detroit gave 100 people who are homeless their second dose on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2021.

The Rev. Tim McCabe, executive director of the center, said many of the people they serve are senior citizens or are experiencing medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.  

"The homeless often feel like they're kind of pushed aside and that they are invisible in society, so the fact that we're able to make sure that, because of their high-risk factors, we would get them vaccinated, it means a lot to them," said McCabe. "They feel like we see their worth as human beings and that we're taking care of them."

Each guest who enters the center's temporary site undergoes a COVID-19 screening process and if symptoms show, that person is directed to a quarantine space set up by the city of Detroit to await test results.

McCabe said the center has given vaccines to about 46% of Detroit's homeless population so far. 

The center has altered its services to safely conduct care during the pandemic. By the middle of March 2020, the center had moved all its operations outdoors and when the weather turned colder, operations were moved to the lower level of the TCF Center, giving it a larger space. 

Laura Lica (left), a Wayne State University nursing student, administers the Moderna vaccine to Kresky Acoff at the TCF Center on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2021.

"The preservation of my life and the preservation of the human species is always No. 1 in my book," said Cecil Earl, 57, who has been experiencing homelessness since April and is considered high risk because of his recent stroke. "The vaccine's going to help me, so I wouldn't be apprehensive about something that's going to help me."

The Pope Francis Center has been serving the Detroit community throughout the pandemic providing regular medical programs, two home-made meals a day, hygiene facilities, access to laundry and shower facilities, shelter and housing assistance. 

Additional services provided by the center also include access to social work and mental health support, employment assistance, mail services, bike repair and grooming services.

Jenna Helsing (left), Wayne State University Nursing, speaks to Kenyon Steele before she administers the Moderna Vaccine at the TCF Center.

With nearly 200 guests currently, the center has been working with Detroit's homeless population for 30 years and has a goal of eradicating chronic homelessness in the city by 2030.

To donate or volunteer, visit popefranciscenter.org.