This week, Cross Roads House residents and staff had the opportunity to receive the first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine through an onsite clinic, operated by the Seacoast Public Health Network with support from the Portsmouth Fire Department. As a congregate living facility, vaccination is an important tool in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and lessening the chances of an outbreak in the facility. Most of the residents at Cross Roads House sleep in dormitory style living quarters, and meals are served in a large communal dining room space.
Cross Roads House Executive Director Martha Stone, was a strong advocate for making the vaccine available to the shelter’s adult residents and staff. “I am so grateful that we are able to provide the vaccine clinic. We have made some significant changes to help keep everyone safe and healthy over the last year, which has allowed us to remain open without an outbreak occurring. Making sure our vulnerable population, and those working on the front lines to serve them, are able to be vaccinated is critical.”
“Many of the people we are working with are not healthy when they arrive at the shelter,” shared Julia, a Cross Roads House Case Manager. “Some have untreated conditions like heart disease or diabetes. They are extremely vulnerable and often don’t have access to medical care. They are also receiving a lot of misinformation about the virus, which really complicates things and can make people highly anxious.”
Residents waiting in line to be vaccinated shared a sense of relief. One resident shared, “I’m eligible for the shot due to my age and medical conditions, but I can’t get ahold of my doctor, and the state phone system had me on hold for over an hour. I’m so glad I could do this here instead. It made things so much easier.”
“I’m excited to be able to get back to work,” stated Cross Roads House resident Tim. “I work in the restaurant industry and it’s been rough this year. I am going to do whatever I can to make sure things get better. If I have to wear a mask, I’ll wear a mask. If it means getting the vaccine, I’m going to do that too.”
Cross Roads House Case Manager Vicki said, “I’m terribly afraid of needles, but I needed to get the vaccine. I’m not doing it just to keep myself safe, but for everyone else in the community as well. I feel that by doing this, I am part of the solution.”
Throughout the pandemic, Cross Roads House has remained open, providing access to critical emergency shelter for those with nowhere else to turn. In 2020 Cross Roads house helped 135 men, women, and children move from homelessness to stable housing.
The shelter’s pandemic response has included, but is not limited to:
- Leasing private motel rooms to decrease the number of residents in the dorms and allow for social distancing
- Offering weekly COVID-19 testing for all staff and residents
- Implementing mandatory mask wearing, new cleaning, and social distancing standards
- Temporarily halting on-site volunteering and donation drop off (onsite donations are now being accepted)
- Working with partner agencies to facilitate telehealth appointments
- Supporting the remote learning needs of our school age children
- Making extensive renovations to our building
“I know that we will need to continue our weekly testing clinics, enhanced cleaning, social distancing, and mask wearing for quite some time,” Stone said. “We have new residents arriving regularly, and we are currently planning how we will coordinate ongoing vaccination opportunities to be sure we are doing all we can to mitigate risk of exposure for everyone. I am hopeful, though, that this vaccine will offer both protection and a sense of reassurance for some of the most vulnerable adults in our community.”
We are tremendously grateful to everyone who helped bring this clinic to Cross Roads House. In particular, we’d like to thank Mary Cook and Ruthann Porier at the Seacoast Public Health Network, along with Portsmouth Fire Chief Todd Germain. They have been amazing advocates for shelters and other vulnerable populations. In addition, we are thankful for all the volunteer vaccinators who came to our site and were heartened to hear that when the signups went out, all slots were filled within minutes. This has truly been a community response and we sincerely appreciate everyone who has contributed their time, talent, and expertise. Follow up clinics have been scheduled to administer the required second dose of the vaccine for everyone that was vaccinated this week.