SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Frontline and essential workers at homeless shelters have petitioned to be moved up the priority list for COVID-19 vaccinations. In multiple cases, it has worked.

Julissa Patino is a residential coordinator at HomeFirst, a homelessness service provider in San Jose she says social distancing at work is simply not an option.

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“Most of the time do I have to physically see people. Most of the people don’t have phones, so we wouldn’t be able to coordinate Zoom meetings,” Patino said.

She’s already had COVID-19 once, and is worried she could get it again.

“Thankfully I didn’t get it that bad, but it’s a little bit more scary working here, knowing that I can get it again and putting these people at risk because they do have underlying health conditions,” she said.

Patino’s boss petitioned Santa Clara County asking that HomeFirst’s essential workers be moved up on the priority list for Covid-19 vaccinations.

The county agreed.

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to get vaccinated within the next few weeks,” Patino said.

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Glide Memorial church in San Francisco is doing the same thing for its frontline workers who serve the homeless.

“If we can provide the vaccine to these folks that are providing these safety net services, it creates a safety and security for all residents of San Francisco, both housed and unhoused,” Kenneth Kim, Senior Director of Programs at Glide Memorial Church said.

State guidelines put shelter workers in phase 1B Tier 2, right now we’re in phase 1A which has three tiers: first come healthcare workers and long-term care residents, then people over the age of 65, educators and agriculture workers.

The state has also started vaccinating people in phase 1B Tier One. Shelter workers are scheduled to be up next but many still haven’t heard a timeline for when it will be their turn.

“No, no one has talked to us, no one said anything to us. We have no idea when that would happen,” Wesley Dawan, a volunteer with the East Oakland Collective said.

Dawan delivers books for the collective, but he also spends time in encampments connecting people to services.

“You have no idea who has been where. So you take the precautions, you stay six feet apart, you put the mask on, you do what you can with that,” Dawan said.

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“They’re basically risking their lives every day, going to work,” Jennifer Friedenbach the Executive Director for the Coalition on Homelessness said.