Homeless Shelter: Get It or Get Out

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jodi Hernandez

    A Contra Costa County homeless shelter is on the verge of kicking people in need out all in the name of health.  If people don't have proof they have received the seasonal flu vaccine, they have to go.   They also want clients to get the H1N1 shot, but say they will give a little extra time for that one because of availability issues.

    The Winter Nights Shelter director says the policy was implemented after they consulted with two nurses and a social worker who are on the shelter's oversight committee.

    All staff and clients must get both flu vaccines.  At least one family is refusing to get the shots and will not be allowed to stay at the shelter starting Monday night.   Officials have provided Laurie Turner and her two children one night at a hotel, but say after tomorrow they are on their own until they prove they have received the vaccine.

    Director Gwen Watson says they want a safe shelter. "If clients are not inoculated and come in, they will be endangering other clients," she said. "We give you the choice, we're not saying you have to have the shot, you just have to take the shot to be a part of Winter Nights."

    Watson fears an outbreak would force them to shut down the shelter entirely.

    Turner and her two children have been staying at Winter Nights since October.  Laurie is refusing to get the shots because she isn't convinced they are safe.

    "It's politically incorrect that I am forced to take something in order to have a roof over my head. That's not right not right at all," Turner said.

    Turner says all the local shelters are full so her family will have to live in their van. "I'm worried, I'm very worried."

    "It's cold out here what are my two children supposed to do, what are we supposed to do?"

    Watson says she feels for the Turner family but says she must protect the rest of her clients.

    "We have to think of the common good for the whole shelter," Watson said. "We're not putting them out (on the streets), they're making that choice. They could get the shot."

    Winter Nights is a shelter that moves from congregation to congregation in Contra Costa County.   It's an interfaith program that is privately funded. It currently houses 27 people, mostly women and children.