Proposal to pay homeless to get COVID-19 vaccine draws concerns

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EVANSVILLE (WEHT) – The Commission on Homelessness has been working closely with the Vanderburgh County Health Department to develop a plan for providing COVID-19 vaccinations for staff and clients of local homeless shelters. It’s also working to get the shots to unsheltered homeless people. These will take place during Phase 2 of the vaccination program.

At a recent Vanderburgh County meeting, one commissioner floated the idea of paying the homeless to get the COVID vaccine. The idea was brought forth by County Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave that the homeless population be offered a gift card or monetary compensation to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during Phase 2 of the vaccination schedule.

However, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke pushed back on the idea. “While the thought is certainly admirable and I think it…faces a lot of challenges,” he said. “Where do you draw the line? Why only incent one part of the population?”

William Bowers of United Caring Shelters said he doesn’t need an incentive for those who come through the shelter.

“I don’t think many people really need to be incentivized to get vaccinated,” he said. I think most people want to be. I’ve heard it voiced from guests here that they would like to be vaccinated.”

Evansville Rescue Mission officials feel that would raise a red flag for other populations.

“Some things that can happen whenever you incentivize a certain demographic is you’re excluding those other demographics from getting that same incentive to take both doses and we understand that’s not something that looks good amongst the whole population of peoples. The mayor has some concerns as well as some local medical professionals,” said Kyle Gorman, development director of the Evansville Rescue Mission.

One thing is for sure, those who were on the streets Friday were thankful for warming shelters.

(This story was originally published on January 22, 2021)

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