Oldham milestone - first homeless man to be fully protected against COVID is so grateful

Date published: 07 April 2021


An Oldham man who was sleeping rough in a churchyard just a few months ago has become the first homeless person to receive a second COVID-19 vaccination jab.

Paul was inoculated by NHS staff and is now looking to return to the world, free of addiction and able to seek warehouse work.

Paul’s conversion has owed much to pioneering health charity Homeless-Friendly.

They organised the vaccine clinic via the DePaul organisation, where he is currently housed, and night-time volunteers from the Oldham Street Angels, who set him on his road to recovery when he sought succour there for some much-needed food.

The decision to protect those experiencing homelessness as a priority was based on research showing they were over 20 times more likely than any other group to need hospital care should they contract the virus.

Added to that, the average life span of a homeless person is just 45 years of age.

“For someone such as Paul who has been living on the streets for over five years, the chances are that their immune systems will be damaged, and poor nutrition and sheer exhaustion would have left them highly susceptible to deadly viruses,” said Oldham GP and Founder of Homeless-Friendly, Dr Zahid Chauhan OBE, who organised the first homelessness COVID clinic back in January.

“How we care for the most vulnerable, whether they be older or living on the streets, is a barometer for any decent society and a moral duty for us all.”

So wrapped-up in the business of finding a roof over his head and something to eat, Paul did not even know about COVID-19 until he saw the streets of Oldham, empty.

“Homeless people do not have TV sets and it was only when I noticed the churches were closed and no one was on the streets that I knew something was going on,” said Paul.

Dr Chauhan added: “Sadly, some people think there is a deserving and undeserving poor and that in some way, homeless people are taking the place of others that are vulnerable.

"This is simply not true.

"Even the spare vaccines from our clinics were immediately taken to care homes and other institutions, to help protect others in need.”

Paul was also keen to dismiss COVID myths about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

“I felt very grateful when I heard I was being vaccinated and I just dealt with it,” said Paul (45).

"We will never be free of COVID unless everyone gets vaccinated.

"If we don’t, we will just continue to spread the virus and hurt the NHS.”

Homeless-Friendly encourages healthcare organisations, businesses, charities and councils to examine their policies and procedures and ensure they cater for people experiencing homelessness.

To join their campaign, go to: https://www.homelessfriendly.co.uk/

To donate towards the continued creation of Homeless-Friendly health kits, telephone: 0161 371 6165 or email: gail.sutcliffe1@nhs.net


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