Officials: Half of Miami-Dade’s homeless are vaccinated

A program to vaccinate Miami-Dade County residents living both in shelters and on the streets is working, officials say. 

The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, along with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, began the outreach in May, according to a press release from the trust. 

The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust Business Plan states that a total of 892 people are unsheltered throughout the county. Ron Book, the chair of the trust, said nearly half, or 413, of these individuals have been vaccinated as part of the mobile tours. 

Though Book did not return requests for comment, he told the Miami Herald the program has been extraordinarily positive. 

“Our goal is to make sure every single homeless individual has access to a vaccination,” he said in a video published by the Miami Herald. “It is our job to take care of those that can otherwise not take care of themselves.”

He said his group has made about 1,200 vaccinations through Jackson Memorial Hospital but on many occasions, people just didn’t show up for their second shot– required for both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. As a result, the group switched to the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Victoria Mallette, the executive director of the trust, said that there have been numerous incentives and strategies for the homeless to be vaccinated. Mallette thinks that overall, they have had great success. 

Sergio Torres, director of the Veterans Affairs and Homeless Services Department of the city of Miami, said that in May they went straight to the places that they know homeless usually congregate, incentivizing them with a $5 gift card. He said his group was able to vaccinate a good number of people, but that at least half did not want the shot. 

Symeria Hudson, the CEO of Chapman Partnership, said that they have been able to vaccinate 55% of the homeless they help.  

Eddie Zaragoza, 63, has lived on the streets of Miami for a dozen years. He has not been vaccinated. 

He said he used to work as a street cleaner, but he has not been able to continue working due to an injury. 

“I do not see why I should not be vaccinated if I want to,” said Zaragoza. “The problem is that every place I go people look at me like I am crazy.”

According to the Proposed Budget and Multi‐Year Capital Plan published by Homeless Trust, the department started working to decrease the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago. The group encouraged both sheltered and unsheltered homeless population to follow the guidelines to prevent the widespread of the virus while in living facilities or out in the streets.  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests have given to people experiencing homelessness.

Carolina Lopez is a sophomore majoring in journalism at Florida International University. After graduation she wishes to become a broadcast news analyst.