Volunteers joined forces to help vaccinate the homeless and provide them with free resources, from legal referrals to ID card registration to vaccinations for their pets, during an outreach at El Pescadero Park sponsored by Tracy Community Connections Center on Friday.

Cheryl Hays, volunteer with Tracy Community Connections Center, said plans began 6 weeks ago to provide a mobile vaccination clinic for the homeless at the park and the plans grew from there.

“Today we invited several of our community partners to come out and help us get the homeless and anyone else vaccinated. It just started with a just few people and just expanded. Everyone wanted to be a part of this,” Hays said.

The center partnered with Rep. Josh Harder and San Joaquin County General Hospital to administer the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Organizers planned the vaccination clinic in response to concerns of the COVID-19 Delta variant continuing to grow.

“If we can’t beat COVID we’ll be doing this again. We have people here who are still afraid of the vaccine,” Hays said. “The variant really didn’t play into our thinking. We just knew that there were so many people out here that weren’t getting vaccinated — they’re very vulnerable — and we just wanted to take care of our community and make sure they are not getting COVID or spreading it. If it was to spread through this encampment, it would be a disaster.”

Workers from San Joaquin County General Hospital’s County Clinics brought 100 doses of the vaccine and, throughout the day, administered 21 vaccinations.

The outreach helped fill other needs of the nearly 100 people who live at the park encampment.

Volunteers from Jules Veterinary Hospital gave annual vaccinations to 10 dogs and one cat.

The Salvation Army from Stockton provided three free government phones, 50 meals and 25 gift cards.

The Good Samaritan Community Thrift Store gave three or more items of clothing to 20 people in need, and the Community Connections Center helped with showers and case management interviews for 21 people.

“Our goal is to eliminate homelessness in Tracy. We have different programs we are working on to help them move and transition from the encampments to transitional housing,” Hays said.

The center has several ideas they have been working on from tiny homes to affordable housing and just recently hired a director of permanent housing to secure housing for homeless.

Hays wanted community members to change some of the perceptions they may have toward the homeless.

“A lot of people think the homeless are dirty, drug addicts, criminals, and I really want to change the image,” Hays said. “They’re decent people. A lot of them are homeless because of COVID — they lost their jobs, they’re couch-surfing, “Hays said. “But when you have families with children – I mean there’s a large number of homeless children in this community – and I just really want people to have more empathy, and I think if they would come out and volunteer they, would see these are really good decent people and really want to eliminate homelessness.”

The center is always looking for volunteers and anyone interested can contact Hays at 209-612-7022 or call the center at 209-407-9649.

• Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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