Protecting our residents and shelter guests from the spread of COVID-19 has been a huge priority for NHA staff over the past year and a half. When the vaccines began rolling out, our Resident Services team began tracking down resources to help residents set up appointments and receive their shots.
Margaret Scharle, a professor at Reed College, was instrumental in helping many of our residents connect with vaccine appointments. She and her vaccine outreach partner Traci Wheeler got connected to NHA after they worked with another local nonprofit, Store to Door, to help get seniors vaccinated.
She describes her role and what motivated her and her partner to create the vaccine outreach program in a short interview below:
Can you describe what role you played in helping our residents find vaccination appointments?
I worked with your Resident Services Coordinators to design vaccine outreach programs within your residences. We worked together to design a flyer to advertise the free vaccines and free transportation options open to your residents. I also served as the liaison between your housing coordinators and the Oregon Convention Center to schedule appointments for your residents.
Why was this important to you? Why did you want to help?
The vaccine rollout started out messy. In Oregon, the authorities had no plan to ensure seniors were vaccinated and confessed to predicting “chaos.” Although the problem was certainly logistical, it unearthed another more insidious one, the “more money, more vaccines” phenomenon. Connections, web savvy, and wealth determined who got vaccinated. Marginalization, lack of access, and poverty selected who died. In response to this crisis, we aimed to create a more just distribution of information achieved by activating local networks of trust so that the most vulnerable didn’t have to wait.
We worked with Meals on Wheels, Store to Door, and several community-based organizations like yours to seamlessly implement a Covid-19 vaccine outreach program within your existing infrastructure. We created a Vaccine Outreach Toolkit with communication templates, and we forged relationships with the mass vaccination sites and free transportation services, Ride to Care and Ride Connections, so clients could both secure an appointment as well as the means to get there. Together with our partners, we aimed to combat inequality, inaccessibility, and mistrust in the vaccine.
It is people like Margaret and Traci that have made a tremendous difference in getting as many people as possible through this global challenge. We are so grateful to them for their help, and we know our residents were so glad to have their help.