Virginia Mason Protects the Homeless with Free Seasonal Flu Vaccinations
"Is this going to hurt?" Anthony Foreman stared at the needle, wincing in anticipation of the flu shot it was about to deliver. 59-year-old Anthony, who is homeless and living in a shelter near downtown Seattle, recently joined thousands from Seattle's homeless population at United Way's Community Resource Exchange (CRE) at Qwest Exhibition Center in Seattle. The event was created to provide much needed services to the homeless and uninsured, including backpacks, new jeans, eyeglasses, haircuts, housing advice and free flu vaccines from Virginia Mason. "Oh, that's not so bad. It kind of tickled," Anthony said, smiling in relief after receiving his shot.
According to the United Way Community Assessment, at least 8,961 people are homeless on any given night in King County. During a one night count on Jan. 30, 2009, 6,134 were utilizing shelter or transitional housing services and 2,827 were surviving outside without shelter.
"I'm outside a lot," says Derek Lowe, who lives on the street during the day and a shelter at night. "We have to be out of the shelter at a certain time and it's so cold and wet in the winter that I get sick a lot." Derek heard about the CRE and free flu shots at his shelter and was one of nearly 250 people to receive the free vaccination from Virginia Mason.
"I'm glad they provide these services for people. It just goes to show what this community does for people," adds Jessica Joey, who also received a free flu shot. "The homeless feel like no one cares about them. This makes it a little easier for us."
"Partnering with United Way on the CRE allowed us to make a direct impact in our community by reaching out to a population in great need of health services," says Judy Ruskell, Director, Community Outreach and Service at Virginia Mason.
For more information on King County's homeless population, visit www.UWKC.org.