Lexington non-profit meets homeless where they are, offers rides to vaccine site
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Members of the Hope Center’s Street Outreach Team were out helping the city’s homeless get to Tuesday’s vaccination clinic.
“It’s tough out here in the vicious cycle of homelessness,” Jason Dezarn, a member of the Outreach Team, said.
Dezarn and Dustin Louthen, coordinator of the team, say they know all too well that homelessness can stem from addiction. Now, having overcome their own battles with the help of the Hope Center, they decided to stick around.
“Felt like I needed to stay here and give back to the community,” Louthen said.
“It’s very rewarding because there was a time in my life where I didn’t have the helping hand,” Dezarn said.
That’s why the pair spent their entire Tuesday morning and afternoon riding around the streets of Lexington trying to get as many as the city’s homeless population into the vaccination clinic at St. Paul Catholic Church – the first one dedicated to the homeless.
They went to known camps and offered people a ride to get their dose.
“A lot of people were intimidated thinking they were gonna get sick, so we just try to let them know that we both have been vaccinated and we’re fine,” Louthen said.
Dezarn and Louthen only got lucky with a few people, but they say it’s worth it.
“We picked that gentleman up from the Lighthouse and he was super ready to come get his shot and hopefully he can go back there when he’s done and let everybody know and we’ll be able to give more rides from there,” Louthen said.
Beyond Tuesday’s clinic, the Outreach Team is constantly looking for people to help. One recent example: a homeless couple who’d been living in a Wal-Mart parking lot for five years.
“We basically did everything for them from start to finish – from birth certificates, to IDs, to medical insurance, to even getting the dog vaccinated and licensed,” Louthen recalled.
The team says whether it’s working through a situation like that one, or trying to convince people to take the vaccine, the key is patience and humility.
“You have to build a rapport with the clients and let them know everything’s cool and I’m the same as you – been in the same position as you’re in and I’m just here to help,” Louthen said.
“It’s basically just leading them to water so they can drink,” Dezarn said.